Texas Governor Greg Abbott headshot
Gov. Greg Abbott

Assisted living operators are exempt from a new executive order in Texas prohibiting the requirement of a “vaccine passport” for services, but one senior living provider organization says the exemption won’t change much in senior living from a practical standpoint.

Lone Star State Gov. Gregg Abbott issued an executive order on Tuesday prohibiting state agencies from creating COVID-19 vaccine passport requirements for services. The White House also announced Tuesday that there will be no federal mandate requiring vaccination credentials, noting, however, that some entities in the private sector are considering such efforts.

“Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives,” Abbott said. 

Assisted living and other long-term care providers can still require information from residents about their vaccination status, however, according to the governor. “Nothing in this order shall be construed to limit the ability of a nursing home, state supported living center, assisted living facility, or long-term care facility to require documentation of a resident’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine,” the executive order reads.

But Diana Martinez, president and CEO of the Texas Assisted Living Association, told McKnight’s Senior Living that residents cannot be treated differently or denied access to a community based on their vaccination status. 

The executive order “doesn’t really impact where we were at already,” she said. “A facility cannot treat residents differently based on whether or not they are vaccinated.”

Similarly, Martinez said, assisted living communities can ask visitors their vaccination status, but they cannot deny entry based on that status. Some communities, she said, are limiting unvaccinated visitors to their public areas and are asking them to take extra precautions.

Private employers, however, can require employee vaccinations, Martinez noted.

A growing number of senior living operators are implementing mandatory employee vaccination policies, including ALG Senior, The Arbor Company, Atria Senior Living, Civitas Senior Living, Continuing Healthcare Solutions, Juniper Communities, Enlivant, Sunrise Senior Living and Silverado.

Texas is seeing high vaccination rates among senior living residents, Martinez said. Most TALA members are reporting percentages of resident vaccination rates in the high 90s, she added, and staff vaccinations rates range from 50% to percentages the high 80s.