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St. Paul care home group will mandate COVID vaccines for staff

It comes amid reports of COVID outbreaks at homes where residents are all vaccinated, but staff are not.

A senior living group in St. Paul has announced it will require all of its staff be vaccinated for COVID-19 starting September 1.

Episcopal Homes made the announcement on Friday, saying the rule will be implemented at its 500-employee care home campus in St. Paul, where it s facilities include two nursing homes, assisted living, independent living, and transitional care.

The organization says that more than 80% of its employees are currently vaccinated, but that it is now demanding 100% due to the growing number of cases in Minnesota driven by the delta variant.

President and CEO Marvin Plakut says the company is one of the first long-term care providers in Minnesota to implement a mandate, saying: "We know that the elderly and those with preexisting conditions are the most vulnerable to the harmful effects of COVID."

"This is the logical and ethical commitment we need to make to protect the health and well-being of every resident and patient in our care," he added.

"Vaccination is the number one way to put this pandemic behind us and avoid implementing unwanted restrictions. We owe it to every one of you and us to do this."

With the delta variant highly contagious, there are a growing number of instances of it spreading even among vaccinated people in close quarters after it's been introduced, though the evidence remains that the vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalizations.

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But elderly populations and those with underlying health conditions are still at risk of complications from the virus, prompting the likes of Episcopal Homes to reduce the risk of it being brought into 

This past week, an outbreak of COVID-19 among the 100% vaccinated residents of a nursing home in Clear Lake, South Dakota, which saw seven out of 30 residents infected with the virus, and two dying.

However, only 61% of staff at the facility had been vaccinated, while the wider county where it's situated only has a vaccinated rate of 36% – way below the national average – in those aged 12 and over, according to Inforum.

It was also reported this week that three vaccinated and one unvaccinated resident at a care home in Kansas has died from COVID-19, and that the staff vaccination rate was less than 60%.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid says that currently, only 58.6% of nursing home staff nationally have had their vaccine.

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