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RICHMOND _ New data indicate another surge of the COVID-19 virus is beginning, heightening the urgency for booster shots among nursing home residents and staff.
In the four-week period ending April 17, resident deaths declined by about two-thirds nationwide, compared to the previous four weeks, with resident and staff cases dropping by about one-half nationwide during the same period, according to AARP's Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard.
In Virginia, resident deaths were down from a rate of .08 per 100 residents in the previous four-week period ending March 20, to .02 in the four-week period ending April 17. Resident and staff cases also showed a decrease from 1.48 for residents and 1.29 for staff to .37 and .32 during this same period.
However, within the four weeks covered by this month's Dashboard, the number of new cases increased week by week, and according to data from the CDC, in the two weeks since April 17, there have already been more cases reported than during all four weeks covered by this month's Dashboard.
“The numbers show another wave of COVID-19 is upon us and gaining steam,” said David DeBiasi, state advocacy director for AARP Virginia. AARP, which serves nearly 1 million members age 50 and older in Virginia. “Booster doses for nursing home residents and staff are a vital line of defense in protecting this vulnerable population. It is critical that we get these folks boosted as this new wave of the virus emerges.”
The latest data from the Dashboard shows that as of April 17, nearly 72% of nursing home residents in Virginia were fully vaccinated with one booster dose, an increase from 68% in mid-March. Among staff, 43% are fully vaccinated with one booster dose, a slight increase from 38% in mid-March. Data on second boosters are not yet available.
Nationwide, staffing shortages in nursing homes declined for the third consecutive month. However, the percentage of nursing homes reporting shortages remains higher than at any time before the Omicron peak. The percentage of facilities in Virginia reporting a shortage of nurses or aides decreased slightly to 35% in the four weeks ending April 17.
AARP is fighting for minimum hourly nursing standards in Virginia which would ensure quality care and help address workforce shortages by requiring that nursing homes provide at least 4.1 hours of nurse and aide care per resident per day. AARP also supports measures that would increase training, wages, and benefits for employees of Virginia’s 288 nursing homes, who care for more than 30,000 Virginians.
“Adequate staffing levels are crucial in providing high quality care and safe environments for our loved ones,” DeBiasi said. “AARP is fighting for important legislation that addresses staffing inadequacies and other chronic issues because no nursing home resident should ever have to settle for poor quality care.”
Advocates for Virginia’s more than 30,000 nursing home residents have been asking the General Assembly for minimum hourly staffing standards for 20 years. During the 2022 session, House Bill 646 failed to advance.
“Poor quality care in nursing homes is not acceptable under any circumstances, not even during a pandemic.” DeBiasi said. “Many nursing homes have been plagued by chronic issues since long before COVID—understaffing, poor infection control, overcrowding, and more. Our loved ones deserve better.”
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 Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard is available at www.aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard, and an AARP story about this month's data is available here. For more information on how coronavirus is impacting nursing homes and AARP's advocacy on this issue, visit www.aarp.org/nursinghomes. Medicare.gov's Care Compare website now offers information about vaccination and booster rates within individual nursing homes and how they compare to state and national averages.
To learn more about AARP Virginia, like us on Facebook @aarpvirginia and follow @AARPVa on Twitter.
AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.
This story is provided by AARP Virginia. Visit the AARP Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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