ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 is raising new concerns at long-term care facilities.

Centers for Disease Control data show nearly 90% of the residents at Minnesota facilities are fully vaccinated. Only 65% of the staff in those places have received their shots. While some facilities are moving toward a vaccine mandate for employees, a St. Paul residence is already a step ahead.

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CEO of Episcopal Homes of MN Marvin Plakut said the long-term care facility is the first in the state to require COVID vaccinations for all employees.

“With this very contagious delta variant, we’re getting worried,” said Plakut. “We’re working with and supporting elderly and those with preexisting conditions. That’s exactly the population that is the most vulnerable to the negative effects of COVID-19. We feel we have a moral responsibility to require vaccine for all staff that work here.”

Episcopal Homes of MN (credit: CBS)

Plakut said there are nearly 600 staff at Episcopal Homes and about 80% of them have already been vaccinated. So far, two staff members have left employment because of the new policy. The care facility is giving employees until Sept. 1 to get their first dose of the vaccine.

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Under federal law, employers can require workers to get vaccinated. There are exceptions for religious beliefs or disabilities.

“I think it’s a brave move and it’s to be applauded,” said Carol McClellan, a resident.

Since the pandemic, Plakut said there’s been 40 positive COVID cases among the residents. McClellan described last year’s pandemic as isolating.

“We found ourselves hibernating in our own apartments and rarely seeing other people. It was not good for the psyche,” McClellan said.

“We don’t want to restrict visitation. That’s so important on the senior campus, to have family and friends visiting. That’s what we want to continue. It’s part of the compelling reason why we want to get vaccinated,” explained Plakut.

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Currently, the long-term facility is not restricting visitors. Plakut said restrictions are required if a COVID case surfaces at the nursing or assisted living facilities.