Rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths among nursing home residents and staff nationwide increased sharply in December, while most residents and staff nationwide are still not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations. Virginia cases increased while deaths remained about the same.
According to AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, rates of COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents nationwide increased 57% in the four weeks ending December 18, compared to the previous four weeks. There was also a 53% increase in staff cases during the same period. Here in Virginia, resident cases are up by 32% in the four weeks ending December 18, compared to the previous four weeks, with staff cases up by 30% during the same period.
This news comes as the Virginia House of Delegates’ Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee is poised to take action on legislation that would set minimum staffing standards for the state’s nursing facilities. The committee is set to meet on Tuesday, Jan. 17. AARP Virginia supports House Bill 1564 sponsored by Del. Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax), who has been advocating for such standards for more than 20 years. Virginia is one of only 12 states with no laws setting the minimum number of hours of care a nursing home resident receives from nurses and aides.
Nursing home resident deaths nationwide increased by 14% during the four-week period ending December 18 as compared to the four weeks ending November 20. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 4,000 of nursing home residents in Virginia have died from the virus.
The new data show most nursing home residents and staff are still not up to date on their vaccinations. For the Dashboard period ending December 18, only 47% of nursing home residents nationwide and 22% of staff were up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. Here in Virginia, 49% of residents and 23% of staff were up to date on their vaccinations. Bivalent boosters, designed to protect against the Omicron variant as well as previous strains, have been available since September, but utilization rates remain low.
“Nursing homes must prioritize vaccination rates among residents and staff,” said Jared Calfee, Advocacy Director of AARP Virginia, which serves more than 1 million members age 50 and older in Virginia. “Family members can play a role, too, in keeping their loved ones safe by engaging with facility management and staff and asking the right questions about vaccination rates.”
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 also sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services urging it to take additional steps to help increase up to date COVID-19 vaccination rates for nursing home residents and staff nationwide, saying more action is needed to protect them and would build upon other recent steps.
Nationwide, it’s estimated that tragically more than 175,000 residents and staff of nursing homes have died due to COVID-19.
Nationwide, about 23% of nursing homes reported a staffing shortage in the four weeks ending December 18, a slight decrease from the previous Dashboard. Virginia facilities reporting a shortage of nurses or aides was 19% for the same period, the lowest since the summer of 2021.
“AARP is fighting for legislation that addresses staffing inadequacies in nursing homes,” said Calfee. “We must do more to ensure that residents receive high-quality care and their families have peace of mind about their safety.”
AARP supports House Bill 1564 which would ensure quality care and help address workforce shortages by providing a minimum staffing level of 4.1 hours of nurse and CNA care per resident per day.
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 www.aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard.