By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts
Nursing home residents and staff experienced an increase in coronavirus cases in the four weeks ending August 22, with resident cases increasing from .11 to .50 per 100 residents and staff cases increasing from .14 to .75 per 100 residents since the mid-July report, according to the latest data from AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard. Deaths have also increased from 0 to .04 per 100 residents over the previous four-week period. Cases are concentrated among the unvaccinated: nationally, those residents were three times as likely to contract COVID-19 last month compared to residents who are fully vaccinated.
AARP has called on long-term care facilities to require that staff and residents be vaccinated against coronavirus, and in Massachusetts, the Baker Administration has announced plans to require all staff at rest homes, assisted living residences, hospice programs, and thousands of home care workers, to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 31. There were modest increases in vaccination rates in this four-week period, with 91% of Massachusetts residents and 79% of staff fully vaccinated as of August 22. This is considerably higher than the national averages of 84% of residents and 64% of staff fully vaccinated.
This month’s dashboard underscores why all staff and residents in long-term care facilities must be vaccinated as quickly as possible. For unvaccinated nursing home residents, their risk of an infection is back up to the levels we saw a year ago. At least 4,686 people in Massachusetts who lived and worked in nursing facilities have died from COVID-19, and no one wants to see that tragedy repeated. Facilities should require that all staff and residents are vaccinated, so we can slow the spread of new variants and save lives.
The AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard also found a .02% increase in staff shortages in the period ending August 22, with .07% of facilities in Massachusetts reporting they did not have sufficient staff. Nationally, staffing shortages increased month-to-month by the largest number since data collection began in the spring of 2020.
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 COVID is impacting nursing homes and AARP’s advocacy on this issue, visit www.aarp.org/nursinghomes.