News Is Mixed From Latest AARP Dashboard: Florida Still Above Average In Protecting Nursing-Home Residents, But State Has Slipped Recently

Posted on 12/10/20

St. Petersburg, Fla. – AARP’s Florida state director, Jeff Johnson, said today that the newest report from an AARP dashboard shows mixed news for Florida’s protection of nursing-home residents and staff from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A baby boomer daughter visiting her elderly shut-in mother in her 80's during quarantine from COVID-19 coronavirus through a window as to not catch this contagious disease

“While no state is doing an excellent job, Florida continues to do better than the national average in protecting nursing-home residents and staff from this deadly pandemic,” Johnson said.  “However, it’s concerning that the rate of cases among nursing-home residents rose to 2.3 cases from two cases for every 100 residents, as reported in the last monthly AARP Nursing-Home Dashboard report.” 

“Even with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, Florida still is doing better than the national average.  Across the country, states are averaging 5.7 cases per 100 nursing-home residents,” Johnson said. 

A deeper look at the dashboard results showed a similar pattern in other indicators, Johnson noted.   For example, the rate of COVID-19 deaths was 2.3 cases per 1000 residents, while the national average for the four weeks ending Nov. 15 was 7.8 cases per 1000 residents, the December AARP analysis showed.  However, the percentage of Florida nursing homes that had at least one active COVID-19 infection among staff crept up slightly from about 61 percent to about 66 percent. 

Florida also showed slight improvement in the percentage of nursing homes that reported having less than a week’s worth of personal protective equipment on hand.  In the November report, 17 percent of Florida nursing homes reported having less than a week’s worth of protective gear on hand.  That dropped to 14.9 percent in the December report. 

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 the number of cases 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.

Since January, COVID-19 has infected residents in about 93 percent of Florida nursing homes, the AARP report showed.  In the four weeks ending Nov. 15, some 32 percent of Florida nursing homes had at least one active COVID-19 case.

“The high-level takeaway from this analysis is that we must keep our guard up,” Johnson said.  “This pandemic has been devastating in its impact, and no group has suffered more than residents of elder-care facilities.”

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.  As of Dec. 8, Florida state government was reporting that 7,558 residents of all elder-care facilities had died of COVID-19, or about two and a half times the death toll of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

Johnson also said the pandemic highlights the need for a fresh approach to the entire system of long-term care in Florida.  AARP Florida will continue to fight for a stronger, more effective long-term care system that helps families and older Floridians live for as long as possible in their homes and communities, while reinventing nursing-home and other residential care systems to reduce infection risk and improve quality of life, he said.

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