Latest AARP Dashboard Reflects Good News: Florida Shows Improvement In Effort to Protect Nursing-Home Residents During Coronavirus Pandemic

Posted on 11/13/20

AARP’s Florida state director, Jeff Johnson, said today that the latest report from an AARP dashboard shows significant improvement on all five indicators of the state’s progress in protecting nursing-home residents and staff from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Johnson also noted that if the virus rises again in Florida this winter, the picture could darken again.

“Let’s start with the most important thing first – Florida ranked better than the national average in numbers of nursing-home resident deaths and infections from COVID-19 in the four-week period ending Oct. 18,” Johnson said. “Florida also performed better than the national average in protecting staff against COVID-19 infections and in having at least a week’s worth of personal protective equipment on hand. That’s all good news.”

Johnson noted that new features in the AARP Nursing-Home Dashboard show how the state has fared, compared to the national average of all 50 states, at three points in recent months: In August, September and October. The trend lines in the Dashboard show Florida showed improvement at the same time that state data showed the pandemic receding in communities across the state from highs in July and August.

AARP launched its Nursing Home Dashboard to help improve transparency on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected vulnerable older Americans. While Florida was one of the first states to release the names of facilities with COVID cases, as well as case number by facility, some states still do not report even this level of information directly to the public. And few states’ data sites provide Americans a way to compare states to a nationwide average.

One indicator showing significant improvement was the indicator of current COVID-19 infections among residents. In the four weeks ending Oct. 18, Florida nursing homes reported an average of two active COVID-19 cases for every 100 residents, better than the nationwide average of 2.8 active cases per 100 residents. In a Dashboard report issued in October, Florida nursing homes reported 4.5 active cases per 100 residents.

However, Johnson noted that Florida’s performance on the AARP Nursing Home Dashboard appears to be driven by lower risks of community spread of the virus in the early fall.

More recently, state data reflect new infections, the rate of new COVID-19 tests that are positive and hospitalizations. All reflect a rise in the pandemic in the last two weeks.

“Unfortunately, there is no reason to look at this data and conclude that the pandemic no longer poses a risk to frail and vulnerable older Floridians,” Johnson noted. “We must keep our guard up, especially if the virus once again is on the rise this winter.”

Using data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services—which is self-reported by nursing homes—the AARP Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio, created the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard to provide four-week snapshots of the virus’ infiltration into nursing homes and impact on nursing home residents and staff.

The federal data does not include coronavirus cases among residents or staff of assisted-living facilities, group homes and other congregate elder-care facilities, which are included in Florida government statistics often cited by AARP Florida.

Johnson also noted that, as indicated in the October report, almost exactly one third of Florida nursing homes had at least one COVID-19 infection in the four weeks ending Oct. 18. About nine out of 10 Florida nursing homes have had at least one COVID-19 infection since January.

Johnson noted that as state lawmakers gear up for next year’s legislative session, improving the performance of Florida’s elder care is critical for the state’s recovery from the pandemic.

“Older residents are continuing to pump billions of dollars each month into Florida’s Longevity Economy, even as traditional mainstays such as the tourism industry have been hit hard by the pandemic,” Johnson noted. “It’s not only basic fairness but good economic development to ensure that older Floridians can rely on a robust continuum of elder care and be protected against the pandemic,” he said.

Johnson continued to call for mandatory regular, frequent, rapid-result testing of staff, residents, visitors and vendors at all Florida elder-care facilities, as well as for stepping up efforts to provide all elder-care facilities with adequate supplies of PPE.

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