Over the past 14 months, about 8,000 elderly residents and staff at long-term care facilities in New Jersey have died from complications caused by COVID-19.

At the beginning of the week, Gov. Phil Murphy said the vaccination level for workers at New Jersey long-term care facilities, currently at 58%, is unacceptably low.

He called on Garden State residents with relatives in nursing homes to reach out to the management at these facilities and pressure them to increase staff vaccination rates.

The head of the organization that represents nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult daycare facilities in Jersey is turning thumbs down on that idea.

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“There is no mandate for the staff at this point and people have the right to choose whether to get the vaccine or not,” said Andy Aronson, the president and CEO of the Health Care Association of New Jersey. “The nursing home managers aren’t the ones with control over whether or not someone gets vaccinated. The nursing home managers are already pushing, they are already encouraging, they’re already educating, they’re already doing everything they possibly can.”

When asked if vaccinations should be required for nursing home workers, considering more residents have died from COVID in nursing homes than in any other setting, Aronson said “there’s no reason for nursing homes to be singled out for a mandate."

"If the governor’s office wants to mandate the vaccine among all healthcare workers, that’s a different issue," he said. “To single out long term care workers for a mandate creates a lot of problems for us as an industry because we compete for our workers with other healthcare providers also such as hospitals, home health agencies.”

He also pointed out vaccination rates among hospital workers are lower than the vaccination rates among long-term care workers.

He noted vaccination rates for long-term care workers are slowly rising, and “as they see their co-workers and their families and their friends in the community getting vaccinated, more and more people are choosing to get vaccinated.”

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