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Retirement Home On Vaccine Mandate: 'We Need To Do Whatever We Can Do'

covid vaccine

Episcopal Retirement Services says about 80% of its 600 employees in the Tri-State are already vaccinated, but all must receive their first dose by Sept. 25.

For months, many companies have shied away from requiring employees to get vaccinated. But as the delta variant and loosened COVID-19 restrictions cause positive rates to increase across the country, including here locally, some companies are mandating the vaccination.

Episcopal Retirement Services, which employs about 600 people in the Tri-State, says employees at its continuing care retirement communities and support services staff will have to be vaccinated by Sept. 25.

Vice President of Marketing Bryan Reynolds says about 80% of staff are already vaccinated.

"But we still felt that in the industry that we serve, which is obviously older adults who are at high risk of contracting COVID and potentially having serious symptoms and even death, we really felt like we're working in their homes and need to do all we could," he said.

COVID-19 cases are ramping up again throughout the country. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified Hamilton County, including Cincinnati, as an area of "substantial spread." That means there have been more than 50 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days. As of Friday, Hamilton County is at 54.07 cases per 100,000.

Earlier this year, only about half of all state nursing home workers agreed to be vaccinated when doses were made available to them.

Reynolds said, "Our president and CEO really just lays it out there ⁠— we need to do whatever we can do for the benefit of our residents and their families who have been in complete support of this effort."

The company will be hosting several vaccine drives for its employees in the coming weeks to make getting their first dose by the mandated deadline easier. But there will be religious and medical exemptions from the mandate.

"We have a process that staff members can go through with our human resources department," Reynolds said.

LeadingAge, a nonprofit focused on aging services, and 56 other professional health care groups announced their support for mandating vaccinations for long-term care and other healthcare workers earlier this week.

Episcopal Retirement Services runs the Dupree House and Marjorie P Lee, which both are financial supporters of Cincinnati Public Radio.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.