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In depth: Despite looming deadline, most Texas nursing home staff vaccination rates didn’t change between August and September

Caroline Covington/Texas Standard
The Brookdale Gaines Ranch assisted living facility in South Austin had 85 staff members vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Sept. 20. But like other assisted living facilities in Texas, neither the state nor the federal government keeps track of how many people work there so it's unclear what percentage of the staff is vaccinated.

Around 30% of Texas nursing homes have vaccination rates of 75% or more; much less is known about assisted living facilities. It's unclear whether Texas will comply with an upcoming federal vaccination mandate.

From Texas Standard:

Just 11% of all Texas facilities are known to have staff vaccination rates of 75% or more

Texas nursing homes are required to report staff vaccination numbers to the federal government. But just around 30% of the more than 1,200 facilities in the state have reported that at least 75% of their employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – a threshold the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, says is a "realistic goal for providers to meet." In addition to nursing homes, Texas has over 2,000 assisted living facilities, also included in this map. But neither the federal government nor the state keeps track of how many people work at each facility, so it is unknown what percentage of staff is vaccinated. That means overall that just 11% of all facilities – nursing and assisted living combined – are known to have vaccination rates of 75% or more.

Despite looming deadline, most staff vaccination rates didn’t change between August and September

In August, the Biden administration announced it was developing a plan that will require staff working at all nursing homes accepting Medicare and Medicaid funding to be vaccinated. While the new rules are expected to go into effect by late October, they have not spurred unvaccinated nursing home staff in most Texas facilities to seek a vaccine. The federal vaccine mandate will not apply to staff at most assisted living facilities.

Also, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently issued an executive order barring COVID-19 vaccination mandates. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission told Texas Standard in an email that it is reviewing the executive order and "will also examine the CMS rules when finalized to identify any potential impacts." The agency also reiterated that it currently does not require COVID vaccinations for nursing facility staff or residents.

Story and data visualization produced by Caroline Covington.

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Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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