Lamont: Nursing home visitors must be vaccinated or tested
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Beginning Saturday, visitors to nursing homes in Connecticut must show proof they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19 or they’ve recently tested negative in order to enter the long-term care facilities.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order Wednesday that imposes the new requirement. It comes as amid concerns the super-contagious omicron variant is leading to more positive COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents across the U.S.
“We know that some of the people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 include those who live in nursing homes, which is why we need to be doing everything we can to protect them from this virus,” Lamont said in a written statement. “This is one more precaution we can implement at these facilities to keep them safe.”
Between Dec. 22 and Jan. 4, the most recent data available, there were 829 positive cases and 13 deaths associated with COVID-19 among nursing home residents in Connecticut. There were 2,148 cases among staff during the same two weeks.
Under the order, visitors must provide proof they’re fully vaccinated and, if eligible, have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster. If not, they must provide paper or electronic proof of a negative rapid antigen test completed within the previous 48 hours or a PCR test completed with the previous 72 hours.
A third option is for visitors to take a rapid antigen test at the nursing home. Lamont said the Connecticut Department of Public Health plans to distribute 50,000 rapid antigen tests, beginning Friday, to all nursing homes for visitors.
Nursing home are required under the order to deny entrance to any visitor that tests positive or refuses to take a test. However, a nursing home is not allowed to stop visitors who are willing to take a test but can’t because the facility is unable to provide one.
Similar requirements for testing, vaccination or both have been imposed in California, New York and Rhode Island.
Earlier this month, Lamont ordered nursing home workers and contractors who have significant contact with residents to get a vaccine booster shot by Feb. 11, noting the state’s increasing COVID-19 infection rate among staff.
The omicron variant spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus. However, early studies show omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.