By Zinnia Maldonado, WBZ-TV

ROWLEY (CBS) – The owner of Sea View Skilled Nursing and Rehab Services said he would rather close the facility than fire unvaccinated workers.

Steve Comley said shutting down the home in Rowley is the toughest decision of his life. It’s been in his family since 1954.

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“I have a very limited staff left, and about 25% of them have decided against the COVID vaccine,” Comley said.

He said shutting down is a better option than forcing his 40 employees to follow the statewide mandate requiring nursing home employees to be vaccinated by October 10. The mandate allows religious and medical exemptions.

Sea View Retreat in Rowley (WBZ-TV)

“They have a right to make a decision what they put in their body and I have to back them up on it,” Comley said.

In the early days of the pandemic, Comley also refused to require staff and residents to be tested for COVID.

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Nicole Surette has worked at the facility for 15 years and chose to get vaccinated. She supports her coworkers’ decision to choose as well.

Steve Comley (WBZ-TV)

“They have the right to choose and whatever is best for them and best for their families,” Surrette said. “And if they’re not comfortable taking the vaccine, then that should be their choice.”

“To not have a choice, to put something in my body that I really don’t want, is not fair,” said employee Amelya Sabatini.

Not everyone is happy with the situation. Emily Keough of Ipswich is frustrated she now must find a new home for her 96-year-old mother. “I just feel sad for mum, and any other elderly person that’s there. This is my mother’s eighth place in the last two and a half years,” Keough said.

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Comley has notified the Department of Public Health of his intent to close and is now working with several other nursing home facilities to help relocate residents.