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Posted 06/16/2022

New Data Show COVID-19 Still Has a Deadly Grip on Nation’s Nursing Homes

New Data Show COVID-19 Still Has a Deadly Grip   on Nation’s Nursing Homes

New data indicate COVID-19 remains a significant threat to the health of nursing home residents and staff in this country, underscoring the need to hold nursing homes and other long-term care facilities accountable for providing high quality care and safe environments.

In the four-week period ending May 22, the number of new resident and staff cases more than quadrupled nationwide compared to the previous four-week period ending April 17, according to AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard.  These case rates are comparable to the first COVID summer, in 2020, and the peak of the Delta wave, in late summer / early fall of last year.

Furthermore, nursing home resident deaths nationwide increased by about one-third compared to the previous Dashboard release, with more than 500 residents dying from COVID-19 in the four weeks ending May 22.   Here in Virginia, resident deaths were up from a rate of .02 per 100 residents in the previous four-week period ending April 17, to .04 per 100 residents in the four-week period ending May 22.

Nursing home resident and staff cases in Virginia were up from a rate of .37 per 100 residents in the previous four-week period ending April 17, to 2.74 per 100 in the four-week period ending May 22. 

“COVID-19’s unrelenting grip on America’s nursing homes is a national disgrace,” said AARP Virginia State Advocacy Director David DeBiasi, on behalf of the organization’s nearly 1 million members in the Commonwealth. “We all know that long before the pandemic, many facilities had chronic issues, such as poor infection control and understaffing, that left our loved ones vulnerable.  We must secure needed reforms now to protect vulnerable nursing home residents and the staff who care for them.”

The latest data from the Dashboard shows that as of May 22, 73% of nursing home residents in Virginia were fully vaccinated with one booster dose, a slight increase from mid-April.  Among nursing home staff, 47% are fully vaccinated with one booster dose, an increase from 43% in mid-April.  Data on second boosters is not yet available.

Nationwide, staffing shortages in nursing homes held steady at 31% in the four weeks ending May 22, the same rate as the previous Dashboard. The percentage of facilities in Virginia reporting a shortage of nurses or aides decreased to 33.8% in the four weeks ending May 22. 

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.

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, which would have required minimum staffing ratios, failed to advance.

 “Research has consistently shown that higher levels of registered nurse staffing are associated with better resident care quality in multiple areas, including decreased infections, fewer bed sores, and lower mortality rates," DeBiasi said. “AARP is fighting here in Virginia for important legislation that addresses staffing inadequacies and other chronic issues in nursing homes.  AARP also supports the establishment of mandatory federal minimum staffing levels or standards as a condition for participation 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 Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard is available at www.aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard. 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.

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