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North Dakota long-term care staff now 70% vaccinated

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Baptist Health Care Center in Bismarck is one of just two federally funded nursing homes in the city whose staff vaccination rate is above average compared to staff vaccine rates nationwide.

St. Alexius Transitional Care Unit is the other one, with 72% vaccinated.

After that, St. Vincent’s (62%), Augusta Place (61%), Missouri Slope (58%), and St. Gabriel’s (51%) are all below the national and state average of 64%.

That’s according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services new online database showing vaccination rates at nursing homes across the country.

But it’s only a small glimpse into long-term care in North Dakota.

Across the state’s 218 locations — including basic care, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities — now 70% of staff has been vaccinated, according to North Dakota’s Long Term Care Association President Shelly Peterson. She says that’s a huge milestone.

“We’re seeing especially this month significant increases on a weekly basis than we have been seeing. I think part of that, too is the mandate suggested by the president as well,” Peterson said.

President Joe Biden announced in August that all nursing homes should mandate vaccines for staff.

Peterson says 38 facilities in the state already have a mandate, but she’s expecting a federal regulation to be out in mid-October, and with that, potential staffing difficulties.

“We normally have been challenged with staffing but the vaccine and COVID have put another layer of stress on it. We just gathered the information for turnovers of CNAs and it continues to be almost 60%,” Peterson said.

Chairman of the state’s Reuniting Residents and Families Task Force Chris Larson says a mandate coming soon could worsen existing staffing struggles.

“We’ve already heard from people that say they’re gonna leave health care,” Larson said.

Larson says educating employees and dispelling myths about the vaccine is an ongoing battle.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges right now, the hesitancy,” Larson said.

According to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, 53% of North Dakotans 18 and older have been fully vaccinated.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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