man rolling up sleeve, nurse preparing shot

At least two more senior living and care companies have joined the growing COVID-19 staff vaccination mandate movement in the long-term care industry.

Episcopal Retirement Services, based in Cincinnati, and LCS, based in Des Moines, IA, announced last week deadlines by which staff members will need to be fully vaccinated.

ERS, which operates almost 30 communities in three states, is requiring all continuing care retirement community staff members and support staff to have their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 25. Affordable senior housing staff members must receive their first dose by Dec. 31.

The delta variant contributed to the mandate decision, ERS said, with the company believing it is in residents’ best interest to make the vaccine mandatory for staff members.

“Vaccination status directly impacts what our residents can and cannot do within their homes,” ERS President and CEO Laura Lamb said in a website post. “As staff, we are guests in our residents’ homes, and they are not guests in our workplace. We stand resolved that mandating the vaccine is the best course for those we serve.”

Lamb said that although she respects each individual’s right to decide on vaccination, the decision for a mandate came down to upholding the company’s mission.

“Our decision is based on our responsibility to put our residents’ needs and quality of life before our own,” Lamb wrote.

The organization, No. 154 on the 2020 LeadingAge Ziegler 200 list of largest not-for-profit multisite senior living organizations, employs approximately 650 workers throughout the region, according to Bryan Reynolds, vice president of marketing and public relations. He told McKnight’s Senior Living that the ERS staff vaccination rate is 80.29%, whereas its CCRC resident vaccination rate is 98.38%.

LCS announced Friday that it is requiring all LCS employees who work in one of the company’s senior living communities, who are required to travel to communities, or who travel on LCS company business to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 16.

LCS, No. 2 on Argentum’s 2021 list of largest senior living operators and No. 16 on the American Seniors Housing Association’s 2020 ASHA 50 list of largest senior housing owners, also is encouraging its third-party managed communities to adopt the same vaccine policy. 

“The focus of the LCS signature experience, EverSafe 360, is the company’s passionate commitment to providing an industry-leading experience focused on enhancing the wellbeing, security and safety of residents and employees,” LCS President and CEO Joel Nelson said in a website post. “We believe that the COVID-19 vaccination is essential in that work and helps mitigate the spread of the virus.”

Long-term care associations including the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, LeadingAge and AMDA-The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine also are backing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies for workers.

Several senior living companies already have COVID-19 vaccine mandates in place for employees. Among them are Aegis Living, ALG Senior, American House Senior Living Communities, The Arbor Co., Ascension Living, Atria Senior Living, Benchmark Senior Living, CareOne, Civitas Senior Living, Enlivant, Five Star Senior Living, the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, Harbor Retirement Associates (for new employees), IntegraCare, Integral Senior Living, JEA Senior Living, Jewish Home Family, Juniper Communities, Masonicare, Pacific Retirement Services, Presbyterian Senior Living, Retirement Center Management, Silverado, Sunrise Senior Living, Trilogy Health Services, Trinity Health, Vi Living and Wesley Enhanced Living.