Heritage Place is closed to visitors again after several unvaccinated staff and residents tested positive for the coronavirus.
Residents at the hospital-owned elder care facility suffered through a COVID-19 outbreak last fall that infected nearly all residents and killed four.
For a long time, they weren’t allowed to see family members, aside from visits on Zoom or on opposite sides of glass doors. Then, last month, the facility started allowing in-person visits again.
That only lasted a few days, before a case inside the facility closed it to visits again. Now, four staff members and two residents, all unvaccinated, have tested positive for COVID-19.
Almost 85 percent of Heritage Place residents are vaccinated. Hospital administrators said residents may be partially motivated to get their shots by current federal guidelines, which allow them to touch visitors only if they’ve been immunized.
But only half of the staff at Heritage Place are vaccinated. That percentage is slightly higher for direct caregivers, at 56 percent.
Central Peninsula Hospital Spokesperson Bruce Richards said the hospital is not requiring staff to get vaccines.
“Well, the reason that we don’t require staff to be vaccinated is very simple: It’s not a very popular thing for anybody to be required to do something as a place of employment," he said.
He said it’s a concern partly because there are healthcare workers, as there are members of the general public, who are vaccine hesitant.
"And some of them will choose not to stay employed if that were to be forced upon them and would leave the workforce," Richards said. "And that certainly would leave us in a difficult position trying to replace specialized care positions.”
Richards said 30 residents who have been exposed to the virus are under surveillance. He said the hospital hopes to open the facility back up to in-person visits next week.
This story has been corrected to fix a transcription error in a quotation from Bruce Richards.