Calls for Nursing Homes to Require COVID Vaccines for Staff and Residents
BY MIKE FESTA, STATE DIRECTOR, AARP MASSACHUSETTS
Cases of COVID-19 decreased among Massachusetts nursing home residents and staff over the four weeks ending July 18, according to the latest release of AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard.
Any number of cases is concerning given the rise of new variants, the gaps in vaccinations among those in nursing homes, and the disproportionate numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 and high risk in nursing homes throughout the pandemic. More than 9,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in the Bay State have died from COVID-19 – representing around 50% of deaths, even though less than 1% of the population lives in these facilities.
Nationally, 60% of health care workers in nursing homes were fully vaccinated and about 82% of residents were fully vaccinated as of the week ending July 18. Here in Massachusetts, 90.6% of residents have been fully vaccinated and 75.6% of staff.
The high COVID-19 death rates of residents and staff in nursing homes has been a national disgrace. As the new variants are emerging, facilities cannot let preventable problems be repeated. The key is to increase vaccinations, and do it now. AARP supports the Commonwealth’s decision to require nursing home vaccinations for staff. The lower levels of staff vaccinations in particular create an unacceptable level of risk, since the disease spreads so easily in these environments. Also, AARP believes that facilities must ensure all residents are vaccinated. Facilities must be open and transparent with how they are progressing toward the vital goal of vaccination for all staff and residents.
In Massachusetts, shortages of staff and personal protective equipment (PPE) decreased slightly from the last AARP dashboard, with 5% of nursing homes reporting a staff shortage and 1.7% noting an urgent need for more PPE.
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 http://www.aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard.
AARP is providing information and resources about COVID-19 to help older Bay State residents and has developed key questions for families to ask if a loved one is in a nursing home. For more information on how COVID is impacting nursing homes and AARP’s advocacy on this issue, visit www.aarp.org/nursinghomes.