By: KDKA-TV News Staff

HARRISBURG (KDKA) – The Pennsylvania Department of Health says it expects all nursing homes to have at least 80 percent of their staff vaccinated by Oct. 1 or else employees will face more frequent testing.

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Executive Deputy Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter called the goal “aggressive, but achievable.”

The Department of Health says only about 12.5 percent of facilities have reached the bar of 80 percent, “which is not enough from a public health perspective to prevent future outbreaks of the virus.”

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According to the Health Department, the point is to increase the rate of vaccination and make sure testing is happening frequently in areas where vaccination rates are low.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association, an advocacy organization, criticized the goal and said they didn’t give any input.

“Instead of proposing solutions to increase vaccine acceptance rates in long-term care, the Department of Health, today, threatened providers and issued a punitive mandate on nursing homes if 80% vaccination rates are not achieved,” CEO Zach Shamberg said in a statement. Shamberg noted that workers were already tested regularly, the frequency based on county positivity rates.

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In long-term care facilities across the state, more than 13,000 residents died. More than 72,000 residents and over 15,000 employees have tested positive.