The Catholic Health Association on Friday joined the growing chorus of prominent healthcare associations and health systems supporting or implementing employee COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

CHA said it “strongly supports” member health systems as they take necessary steps toward ensuring as many healthcare workers get vaccinated as possible. The organization’s announcement comes after dozens of providers and several associations have backed vaccine mandates for healthcare workers.

“The alarming rise in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks due to the delta variant and vaccine hesitancy is a stark reminder of the serious health threat the virus poses, particularly for the elderly and individuals with underlying medical conditions,” Sister Mary Haddad, CHA’s CEO, said in a statement. “The escalation in COVID-19 cases also threatens our ability to be in communion with one another. Attending family gatherings, visiting friends and worshiping together safely are all critically important to our individual and collective well-being.”

States with the highest COVID-19 spikes in recent weeks are also those with the lowest vaccination rates, data from Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Tracking Center show.

The American Hospital Association on Wednesday announced it supports hospitals and health systems that are requiring COVID-19 vaccines for their employees. The AHA represents almost 5,000 hospitals and health systems.

The Association of American Medical Colleges last week urged its member medical schools and teaching hospitals to require their workers get vaccinated.

Individual healthcare providers have announced their own mandates, too, including Atrium Health, based in Charlotte, N.C., Trinity Health in Livonia, Mich., and Boston’s Mass General Brigham.

The CHA’s Haddad continued that the high level of vaccine hesitancy creates the potential need to reinstate restrictions to stem the spread of the virus.

“By accepting the vaccine, Catholic healthcare professionals working in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities and in the community give witness to Christ’s call to love one another,” she said.

CHA’s membership includes more than 600 hospitals and 1,600 long-term care and other healthcare facilities.

Updated data from CMS shows only 59% of staff at U.S. nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are fully or partially vaccinated, even seven months after the first vaccines became available to medical providers.

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