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Facility Cases and Deaths Increase to Highest Level in a Year in Virginia
After a deadly early January in the nation’s nursing homes, new data show the early winter wave of COVID-19 appears to have peaked.
According to AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, rates of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents nationwide increased 23% in the four weeks ending Jan. 22 compared to the previous Dashboard period ending Dec.18. The increase represents the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes nationwide since the first Omicron wave last winter.
In Virginia, resident deaths increased by 160% in the four weeks ending Jan. 22, compared to the previous four weeks – more than seven times the national average. Resident cases were up 56% and staff cases up by 82% during the same period. However, more recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that deaths and cases in the two weeks since Jan. 22 declined by about one-third from the rates during the Dashboard period.
“While it is good news that the early winter wave of COVID-19 appears to have peaked nationwide, this new report shows that our loved ones in nursing homes are still highly vulnerable to the virus,” said AARP Virginia State Director Jim Dau. “Vaccinations are the best defense against COVID-19, and we must remain vigilant about protecting this population.”
The new data show up-to-date vaccination rates among nursing home residents nationwide are progressing slowly while staff rates remain stalled. For the Dashboard period ending Jan. 22, 51% of nursing home residents nationwide and only 22% of staff were up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. In Virginia, 53% of residents and 23% of staff were up to date on their vaccinations. During the previous period, 49% of residents and 23% or staff were up to date.
Encourage Nursing Home Staff to Get Vaccinated
AARP recommends family members of a nursing home resident ask these 10 questions about vaccination rates and other COVID-related issues to stay connected and keep your loved one safe.
AARP is also urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to take additional steps to help increase up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination rates for nursing home residents and staff, saying more action is needed to build upon other recent steps to protect them. Nationwide, it’s estimated that more than 180,000 residents and staff of nursing homes have died due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began in early 2020.
The new AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard also found that 20% of Virginia facilities reported a shortage of nurses or aides for the four weeks ending Jan. 22, a slight increase over the previous reporting period.
Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have passed legislation that would establish minimum staffing levels in nursing homes.
“For years, Virginians in nursing homes and their loved ones have suffered from not having enough qualified staff on hand to provide needed care,” Dau said. “This new bill is a good first step, and we know that much more needs to be done to care for the most vulnerable Virginians.”
Nationally, AARP also supports the establishment of mandatory federal minimum staffing levels or standards as a condition of participation for nursing homes in Medicare and Medicaid.
The AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard analyzes federally reported data in four-week periods going back to June 1, 2020. Using this data, the AARP Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio, created the Dashboard to provide snapshots of the virus’ infiltration into nursing homes and impact on nursing home residents and staff, with the goal of identifying specific areas of concern at the national and state levels in a timely manner. The full AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard is available at aarp.org.
With about 1 million members in Virginia, AARP is the largest organization working on behalf of people age 50-plus and their families in the Commonwealth. To learn how we are working in your community, visit us online at aarp.org/va, follow us on Facebook at @aarpvirginia and on Twitter @aarpva.