CLEVELAND — President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that his administration will require that nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for those facilities to continue receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding.
Biden unveiled the new policy in a White House address as the administration continues to look for ways to use mandates to encourage vaccine holdouts to get shots.
“If you visit, live, or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees,” Biden said.
This impacts about 15,000 nursing homes and more than 1.3 million employees nationwide, including Brandi Little who works at a facility in Shaker Heights.
"It's very scary to think that we would face consequences for mandating employees to be vaccinated because I understand employees have strong beliefs," Little told 3News' Laura Caso.
Little chose to get vaccinated months ago because she has lupus and has also seen how quickly the virus can spread within nursing home facilities. However, she's concerned about severe staffing shortages and says the new mandate will make it worse.
"At nursing homes, your line staff is making under $15 dollars an hour, it's not worth it to them when they could potentially work at Walmart, Target or any other retailer and make more there than they are at a nursing home…so they have no incentive."
In Ohio, about 47 percent of nursing home staff are unvaccinated, according Executive Director of the Ohio Health Care Association, Pete Van Runkle.
"We are already in a place where the average nursing home facility has 19 open positions that they aren't able to fill and that could double with this," Van Runkle said.
Van Runkle is pro-vaccine but says the Biden's vaccine requirement could have a horrible impact on services to those who need them.
"The residents are not going to get as good of care as if there were more people there to help them," the executive director says.
The new mandate, in the form of a forthcoming regulation to be issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, could take effect as soon as next month.
You can watch President Biden's full Wednesday in the player below: