Vaccine mandate on hold in AR; potential impact on staffing in long-term care facilities

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FILE – In this Sept. 14, 2021, file photo, a syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pa. Companies with at least 100 workers will be required to give employees paid time off to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and paid sick leave if they have side effects from the shots. That’s according to a Biden administration official who spoke Monday, Nov. 1, about pending vaccine-mandate rules from OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – A U.S. District Judge puts a temporary hold on President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for some states, including Arkansas. This will impact thousands of healthcare workers.

This comes after a joint lawsuit against the mandate from Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire.

Executive Director of the Arkansas Health Care Association, Rachel Bunch said this could actually be beneficial for staffing shortages in

She said as COVID-19 evolved, more people left the profession and it was harder to hire new workers.
Then, after the vaccine mandate went into effect, AHCA saw even more leave to avoid the shot.

“We definitely support what’s happened lately and these decisions and steps that have been taken,” Bunch said. “I hope this will help us to retain some of our workforce that’s really critical right now.”

Bunch reported 51 positive cases among patients and 59 among staff across all long-term care facilities over the last 14 days. 77% of staff and 87% of residents are already fully vaccinated.

Health officials like Arkansas Center for Health Improvement President, Dr. Joe Thompson, still encourage everyone to choose to get the vaccine.

With COVID-19 cases going back up again, he said it will be crucial for everyone to opt for the shot.

“Our best protections are vaccines,” he said. “It is not a time for an ‘all clear signal.’ We need to do our best to break the back of this virus.”

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