Friendly Home nursing home to require vaccinations for all employees

BRIGHTON, N.Y. (WHEC) — If you work at, or want to work at the Friendly Home nursing home in Brighton, you will have to get your COVID-19 shot.

The home Thursday announced the vaccine will be a requirement for staff, effective Sept. 6.

Previously, only new employees had to get vaccinated, the home said it began that requirement in February. Organizers say the shift in the protocol is the "next natural step."

By law, the home, as a private business, is not required to make the vaccine a mandate. During a Zoom call Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all New York state employees will have to either be vaccinated or face regular testing by Labor Day. Patient-facing healthcare workers at state-run hospitals will have to get the vaccine and will not have a testing option.

The governor did recommend businesses consider the same strategies. The Friendly Home did not list testing as an alternative.

Organizers say they are working to make the process as easy as possible for its staff, including making the vaccine readily available.

Visitation is still allowed at the home, though visitors must wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

The Friendly Home experienced three outbreaks during the pandemic lost more than a dozen residents to COVID-19, so mandating the vaccine for employees is something Vice President and Administrator Michael Perrotta and his team had been considering for a long time.

"We needed to make sure that we were doing everything we possibly could to mitigate the potential spread of Covid within our building," Perrotta said.

Of the 300 people on staff at the Friendly Home, about 80% of them are already vaccinated. Some are still weighing their options.

"Many of them are just processing,” Perrotta said. “We’ve had, though, today a number of people come forward and say ‘okay I’m ready to get vaccinated,’ and we’re administering those doses as we speak."

The Friendly Home is giving the shot on-site, but it’s also offering to drive employees to other vaccine clinics if they prefer. If an employee refuses to get the shot and does not have a legitimate religious or medical exemption, “they wouldn’t probably stay employed with us," Perrotta said.

At this point, the vaccine will not be required for the 154 residents of the Friendly Home, but about 98% of them are already vaccinated.

New York State Department of Health regulations prohibit nursing homes from asking visitors for proof of vaccination or asking them to take a COVID-19 test, though the Friendly Home does offer free rapid testing for any visitor who wants it.