Knoxville retiree alarmed at number of caregivers who are unvaccinated

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A retired Knoxville man says he doesn’t want unvaccinated caregivers coming to his home anymore; he recently learned that for the last eight months, several home healthcare providers who are paid by the federal government to assist him and his wife have not been vaccinated, and that bothers him.

As it stands, private care services are not required to insist that their workers be vaccinated against COVID-19, but there is a movement gaining momentum to ensure that all healthcare workers are fully vaccinated. However, if you are among those most vulnerable to the virus, learning that the caregivers who come into your house are unvaccinated can be alarming.

For 40 years, Billy worked in the nuclear industry at Oak Ridge. At 89 years old, he is in declining health because of exposure to radioactivity and other dangerous toxic substances, as he worked inside K-25 and other buildings associated with the uranium industry.

A few years ago, he started receiving federal benefits under the Radiation Employee Compensation Act for Cold War Patriots. With his benefits, a nurse comes to his house once a week and personal caregivers several times a week to help Billy and his wife with household chores. He and his wife are fully vaccinated. They asked that we not give their last name.

He says, “We have stayed here at home for about 16 months. We haven’t been to a restaurant to eat, we haven’t been to the grocery store to buy groceries, we have depended on our daughter and son.”

Air purifiers are placed throughout his home. He is doing everything possible to remain free of the virus.
Recently, however, he learned something disturbing about his personal health care provider.

“The nurse was here last Thursday, we got to talking about it, I asked her personally do you have the injection? She said, no. I said well then bye,” Billy said. “We got down to where the homemakers didn’t have a shot. I had a young lady who was going to Florida on a vacation. I told her she would have to be checked before she came back. Then they were going to send me another person out, he hadn’t had no shot, so I wouldn’t let him come. Then there was another one who was supposed to come out, she didn’t have the shot. So, I wouldn’t let her come out.”

What are the rules among caregiver services in East Tennessee? Are employees who come into homes of the elderly required to prove they’re vaccinated? We checked. One manager told us. “We strongly recommend that our caregivers be vaccinated, however, we can’t force them to take the vaccine.”

Another CEO said, “We tell our prospective employees that they should be fully vaccinated, and if they are not, we may not be able to find work for them.”

Another manager said, “If a client asks that we send only people who have received both shots, we follow their request.” Also, if a client learns that their caregivers are not vaccinated, another manager said, “We will not send unvaccinated caregivers to the home.”

Billy doesn’t want anybody in their house to take care of them if they haven’t been vaccinated.

So, here’s the question, can healthcare chains mandate worker vaccines? The answer is no, they don’t have to. However, more than 50 healthcare professional societies and organizations have urged all healthcare employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but that hasn’t happened yet.

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