URBANA – More than 10,000 residents of long-term care facilities in Illinois have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to state data.
But in Champaign County, only one long-term care facility is currently mandating that its staff receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Clark-Lindsey, a long-term care facility and nursing home in Urbana, announced the vaccine mandate to their staff in May. Its campus includes a short-term and residential nursing care facility, therapy center and home care services.
Rikki Brady, the vice president of health services at Clark-Lindsey, says it’s the staff’s responsibility to protect residents from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated.
“Because this is their home, I think we need to do all that we can do to keep that home setting safe,” Brady said.
All but two of the 275 residents at Clark-Lindsey have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Brady. Now, almost 90% of Clark-Lindsey’s staff are vaccinated.
Krista Borbely, the vice president of human resources at Clark-Lindsey, says their goal is to get to 100%.
Borbely says staff can be granted exemptions for religious or medical reasons.
She says she realizes that some employees who don’t want to be vaccinated could leave to work at another long-term care facility that is not mandating vaccinations.
“We will have some employees who decide that they don’t want to comply with our belief that everyone should be vaccinated,” Borbely says. “At the end of the day, if they have decided that they don’t intend to comply, then everybody understands that they won’t be able to be employed here.”
Julie Pryde, health administrator with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said during a County Board of Health Meeting on June 15 that Clark-Lindsey is the only long-term care facility in Champaign County mandating the vaccine.
She said she’d like to see other facilities do the same.
“If I ran the world, that would be mandatory,” Pryde said during the meeting. “You would have all your vaccinations if you were working with vulnerable populations. Period.”
Pryde said she receives calls from concerned family members all the time asking the department to mandate vaccinations for long-term care facility employees.
However, she said the department doesn’t have that power; the mandates have to come from the facilities.
Brady, who is also a health care professional, says she hopes that the staff recognizes the importance in getting vaccinated while taking care of elderly residents.
“As a nurse, we have a duty to keep [residents] as safe as we can,” Brady said. “That’s just one more step to help.”
Farrah Anderson is a student journalist for Illinois Newsroom. Follow her on Twitter @farrahsoa.