Health and Science

Brookdale Senior Living to require Covid vaccine for staff, CEO says

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Key Points
  • Brookdale Senior Living is implementing a Covid vaccine requirement for its staff, CEO Cindy Baier told CNBC on Friday.
  • The move comes as the highly transmissible delta variant leads to a resurgence in coronavirus cases in the country, including in nursing homes.
  • "Even though our associate-vaccination rates are increasing, we want them to be even higher," Baier said.

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Brookdale Senior Living CEO on why it's mandating vaccines for employees

Brookdale Senior Living, a large operator of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities in the U.S., will require its staff to get vaccinated against Covid, CEO Cindy Baier told CNBC on Friday.

The move comes as the highly transmissible delta variant leads to an increase in coronavirus cases in the country, including in nursing homes. Between July 25 and Aug. 1, coronavirus cases among nursing home residents rose 38%, although levels remain far below previous peaks, according to the CDC.

Vaccines are providing vulnerable residents with immunity protection that was not afforded at earlier stages in the pandemic, when long-term care facilities were epicenters for devastating outbreaks. Across Brookdale Senior Living's facilities, which are located in 41 states, 93% of residents are vaccinated, Baier told CNBC. The vast majority of the Brookdale's portfolio consists of assisted living and memory care facilities. 

"Given the widespread access of the vaccine, we're in a much better position to handle the pandemic," she said in an interview on "Power Lunch."

Nevertheless, the rise in coronavirus infection levels across the nation still heightens the risk to nursing home residents, many of whom are older and have underlying conditions that make Covid more dangerous to them. Increasing vaccination rates among staff, who come and go from the facility, can play a crucial role in trying to limit the likelihood of an outbreak taking hold.

Covid vaccinations have shown to be effective not only in reducing the chance of getting severely sick or dying from the disease, but studies suggest they also offer protection against infection.

"We want to [have] every Brookdale associate that we can vaccinated. To us, even though our efforts have been ongoing for several months, even though our associate vaccination rates are increasing, we want them to be even higher," Baier said. "That's why we've chosen to go to a vaccine requirement with limited exceptions."

As of late July, roughly 82% of nursing home residents in the U.S. were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, vaccination rates among health-care staff is lower at around 59%. Overall, 49.9% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated while 58.2% have had at least one shot, according to the CDC.

Earlier this week, Genesis Healthcare — another large U.S. nursing home operator — announced it was requiring workers to receive the Covid vaccine in order to stay employed. Outside of long-term care, a number of other large corporations have recently adopted more strict vaccination policies for employees, including United Airlines on Friday.

The actions are seen as a jolt for the nation's vaccination rate, which had slowed considerably since the spring and prompted U.S. health officials to ramp up their efforts to convince hesitant Americans to get the Covid shots.

Several Southern states that have low vaccination rates have seen upticks in shots administered recently, as Covid delta variant spread intensified, according to a CNBC analysis of CDC data. In Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Arkansas, the weekly average of daily reported first doses more than doubled since beginning of July.