Just three days after New York State’s vaccination mandate went into effect for healthcare workers, Monroe County and health officials met on Thursday to brief residents on how systems have been affected.
Vaccination rate of hospital staff
In a statement released Thursday, the University of Rochester Medical Center said 96% of hospital employees were vaccinated, 3% had approved medical or religious exemptions and 1% of employees had resigned.
“We are delighted that such a high percentage of UR Medicine employees have chosen vaccination, which protects them individually against serious illnesses from COVID, while collectively protecting our patients, families and communities,” said Steven Goldstein, senior vice-president of URMC.
People with approved exemptions are required to undergo weekly COVID testing as well as daily symptom monitoring.
“We continue to encourage all eligible to be vaccinated, including staff members who currently enjoy a religious exemption or who have recently resigned and will be welcomed back,” Goldstein said.
At Rochester Regional Health, more than 99% of staff have been vaccinated, according to its chief medical officer, Dr Robert Mayo. Mayo said less than 1% of unvaccinated employees have about five days of administrative leave to reconsider getting vaccinated.
“Their employment would end if they didn’t follow the rules,” Mayo said.
At Monroe Community Hospital, the delay is a little more lenient. County manager Adam Bello is granting 30 days of unpaid administrative leave under which unvaccinated employees must be vaccinated to keep their jobs. Bello said 93.8% of MCH employees have been vaccinated, there has been one resignation and seven exemptions have been approved.
The impact of the retirement home
Health care officials have said that despite high employee vaccination rates, hospital systems are still understaffed in some areas, especially in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.
According to URMC officials, 24 nursing homes in the Finger Lakes area have stopped accepting new patients. Officials said this was the result of previous staff shortages that had been compounded by the state’s mandate to vaccinate healthcare workers.
URMC chief medical officer Dr Michael Apostolakos said people waiting to enter nursing homes are causing overcrowding in hospitals.
“This results in a significant percentage of our beds being occupied,” said Apostolakos, “making it more difficult for patients to get through the emergency room and our hospital.”
UR Medicine hospitals have 55 patients awaiting discharge to a nursing home, and RRH has at least 60. “We continue to treat them, we continue to look for options,” said Dr. Robert Mayo, physician. head of RRH.
COVID-19 back-to-school protocol
The increase in COVID-19 cases among school-aged children is also causing local health systems to be stretched, officials said.
In an effort to reduce pressure on clinical facilities, the Monroe County Public Health Department is making it easier for sick students to return to school once they get better.
Public Health Commissioner Dr Michael Mendoza said students who were ill will not have to see their health care provider for clearance under certain conditions.
“As long as their symptoms are gone and they’ve tested negative with the correct test, they can go back to school after going back to school with algorithms,” Mendoza said.
He said the correct test is either the Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) or the PCR test.
Rapid tests, Mendoza said, are not acceptable, according to state mandates. He said these tests have proven to be unreliable in areas with high or moderate transmission rates.
Monroe County will begin giving booster shots to residents 65 and older starting Friday, according to County Director Adam Bello. He said the third dose is by appointment and is only available at the County Fleet Center clinic and the downtown campus clinic at Monroe Community College.
Bello said more locations will become available as eligibility increases.
Appointments for a reminder can be made here or by calling 211.