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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

How The Nursing Home Staff Vaccine Mandate Could Worsen Wyoming's Staff Shortage

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The Biden administration announced last month that it will require nursing home staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Facilities that don't comply could lose federal funding. But nursing home administrators are worried it could end up hurting already significant staff shortages.

Thirty-seven percent of nursing homes in Wyoming are experiencing staff shortages. That's over ten percent higher than the national average.

Wyoming AARP director Sam Shumway said a little over 50 percent of staff are vaccinated now and he's not sure a mandate will do the trick.

"The other thing I've heard is that some of these nursing homes, if somebody can go work in another healthcare setting, that's not requiring a vaccine. Then they'll leave and go work at a hospital or clinic or somewhere like that. or doing home health or another setting where that where the vaccine isn't isn't being required," said Shumway.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, AARP has been collecting data monthly on how the virus has affected long-term care facilities. The last snapshot came out in early August and Shumway is worried the September snapshot won't look any better in terms of staff shortage.

"What we will see in the next iteration of the nursing home dashboard, is that 37 percent, jumps to 50 percent of nursing homes or 60 percent of nursing homes, saying they're dealing with staffing shortages," he said.

Sumway said it's difficult to say why exactly facilities are struggling to retain workers. However, he has heard that some workers will quit and collect unemployment, in order to avoid the vaccine requirement.

The Biden administration has yet to set a date for the vaccine mandate. But Shumway said he's eager to see whether it boosts Wyoming's vaccination rate or worker shortages at nursing homes.

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