Nursing home advocates worry vaccine requirement could leave facilities understaffed

President Biden announced Wednesday all nursing home staff will soon be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, or facilities could have their federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid withheld.

"The key tool to keeping our economy going strong is to get people vaccinated and at work," President Biden said.

Some nursing home advocates are worried the new requirement could create more problems.

"If the staff refuse to get vaccinated and they walk that would make nursing home industry inoperable," Families For Better Care executive director Brian Lee said.

As Lee explains, if facilities can't meet the requirement, they may have to close.

"Nursing home residents are kind of caught in the middle of this discussion and if the nursing home loses funding the providers close. If the staff walk, the places close. Where do the residents go," Lee said.

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People like Jodi Merrett, whose mother is in a nursing home, are feeling frustrated. Visits are still limited to only outside and for no more than 45 minutes. It's something Merritt says is already a strain on her mother and she worries the requirement could make it worse.

"I wish that the people would want to get vaccinated that are working with them, but I also kind of understand their concerns so I don't know if it's going to change anything. I hope it does," Merritt said.

At last check, about 40% of nursing home workers across the country remain unvaccinated. In Florida, that number is about 45%.

Merritt hopes workers realize just how much of an impact their decision is having on families like hers.

"I would like to see the staff be willing to be vaccinated if that would get us back in the nursing home to visit our loved ones," Merritt said.

The new mandate would impact about 15,000 nursing homes nationwide, including the roughly 700 nursing homes in Florida. The requirement could take effect as soon as next month.