Nursing home volunteers will need flu shots – or masks

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 November 2013 at 12:00 am

ALBION – Volunteers at The Villages of Orleans, the county-owned nursing home in Albion, will need flu shots or else they will have to wear a mask if they want to be inside the facility interacting with residents.

The state Health Department issued that decree for the upcoming flu season. The Health Department first put the policy in place near the tail end of last year’s flu season.

The new policy already has rankled one volunteer. Adolf Genter is a regular presence at the nursing home, playing his accordion. He doesn’t want to get a flu shot.

He spoke out against the new state policy during Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting.

The state health commissioner hasn’t declared the start of the flu season yet, so Genter can continue to play the accordion at the nursing home without a flu shot or protective mask. But he won’t be able to much longer.

The flu season generally runs from November through April. There haven’t been enough cases yet to prompt the commissioner to declare the official start of flu season, said William Gillick, the nursing home administrator.

The new policy applies to nursing home employees, volunteers and interns. It may also extend to other personnel who occasionally work in the facility, including Buildings and Grounds and information technology staff, said Paul Pettit, the county’s public health director.

The new state policy doesn’t apply to nursing home visitors.

The policy extends to hospitals, nursing homes, health clinics, home care agencies and hospices. State health officials say they want to help contain the spread of the flu.

New York recorded 45,352 confirmed cases and 9,537 patients hospitalized with influenza last season, the Associated Press reported. After a spike in flu cases last January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency.