Nursing Homes Report Staffing and PPE Shortages
BY MIKE FESTA, STATE DIRECTOR, AARP MASSACHUSETTS
The latest release of AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard shows that both cases and deaths in nursing homes fell in the four weeks ending February 14. Although these rates are improving, new infections and deaths in nursing homes are higher than they were in the summer of 2020. Deaths of nursing home residents are slightly lower than what they were in the previous time period, dropping from a rate of 1.19% to .79% per 100 residents. New infections among residents and staff also declined to less than half of previous levels. Resident cases fell from 6.3 to 2.4 per 100 residents, and new staff cases declined from 6.2 to 2.4 per 100 residents.
The dashboard also reveals that staffing and shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) remain a problem. In Massachusetts, while the number of facilities reporting a shortage of PPE has declined, .011% did not have a one-week supply in the last month.
One year into the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to see disgracefully high numbers of cases and deaths in Massachusetts nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Decreasing numbers and vaccine rollout give hope, but we should not lose sight of the chronic, ongoing problems in our long-term care system that were exposed by COVID. AARP Massachusetts will continue fighting for reforms that make nursing homes safe and provide options for seniors to stay in their homes.
AARP continues to urge elected officials to act immediately, focusing this year on:
- Enacting or making permanent the components of AARP’s five-point plan
- Prioritizing regular and ongoing testing and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents and staff, as well as inspectors and any visitors.
- Improving transparency focused on daily, public reporting of cases and deaths in facilities; communication with families about discharges and transfers; and accountability for state and federal funding that goes to facilities.
- Ensuring access to in-person visitation following federal and state guidelines for safety and requiring continued access to virtual visitation for all residents.
- Ensuring quality care for residents through adequate staffing, oversight, and access to in-person formal advocates, called long-term care Ombudsmen.
- Rejecting immunity for long-term care facilities related to COVID-19.
- Establishing minimum nursing staffing standards
- Ensuring progress is made so that in-person visitation can safely occur and facilitating virtual visitation
- Creating a pathway for single occupancy rooms in nursing homes
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 COVID is impacting nursing homes and AARP’s advocacy on this issue, visit www.aarp.org/nursinghomes.