Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, long-term care facilities were dealing with a shortage of personnel. And then the 18-month long public health crisis that has been COVID-19 led to more workers leaving their jobs in that portion of the health care field.

Now, as New York officials require health care workers to be vaccinated by Sept. 27, there is growing concern the shortage could be made even worse.

Health care workers were among the first to qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine in the country, and about 70% of nursing home and long-term care facility workers in New York have received their shots.

But Stephen Hanse, the president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the Center for Assisted Living, in a Capital Tonight interview on Thursday, said the long-term care industry is seeking some alternatives to mandatory testing, such as a testing option.

In rural areas, a shortage could be especially problematic, where care can already be scarce. Gov. Kathy Hochul has indicated New York will continue to move forward with the vaccination requirement as the mandate is challenged in court.

Hanse said the broader issue of recruitment and retention needs to start early, potentially even in high school.