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COVID-19 Deaths in Nursing Homes Tripled from August to September 2021 in Arizona

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New AARP Analysis: COVID-19 Deaths in Nursing Homes Tripled from August to September 2021 in Arizona

Nationwide, COVID-19 Deaths in Nursing Homes Doubled

PHOENIX, Arizona - COVID-19 continued to take a deadly toll on nursing home residents and staff in Arizona in the four weeks ending September 19, according to the latest data from AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard.  Resident deaths from COVID-19 increased from 2 in mid-August to 11 in mid-September.  Nationally, resident deaths from coronavirus doubled since the last dashboard release, with more than 2,000 lives lost in nursing homes during the same time period.  New infections among residents and staff in Arizona also increased.  Resident cases went from 84 to 96, and new staff cases increased from 110 to 123. Cases and deaths would be even higher if not for the availability of vaccines, underscoring the importance of continuing access to COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots for eligible residents and staff.

Vaccination rates among nursing home residents and staff also have begun to rise slightly, with 75.4% of residents and 63.7% of staff fully vaccinated as of September 19 (up from 73.5% and 59.0% in mid August.)  Nationally, more than half of health care staff in nursing homes are now vaccinated in every state. AARP has called on nursing homes and long-term care facilities to require that staff and residents be vaccinated against coronavirus, and the Biden Administration has announced plans to require vaccination for staff in nursing homes and most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments. 

The new Dashboard also shows that chronic staffing issues in Arizona nursing homes continue.  In the four weeks ending September 19, 23.1% reported a shortage of nurses or aides.  Nationally, staffing shortages also rose by 3 percentage points for the second month, with 29% of nursing facilities now reporting a shortage of nurses or aides – on par with the highest level seen during last winter’s COVID wave.

“It’s now been one year since AARP began analyzing and reporting how COVID has infiltrated nursing homes across the United States,” said Dana Marie Kennedy, AARP Arizona State Director  “The increase in deaths among nursing home residents is a grim reminder that this pandemic is far from over. All staff and residents of long-term care facilities must be vaccinated against coronavirus to prevent more heartbreaking losses as we head into winter.”

Now more than ever, it’s time to hold Arizona’s nursing homes and other long term care facilities accountable for providing high quality care and safe environments for our loved ones.  The Arizona state legislature needs to consider a commonsense bill that would do just that. We would also like to see the legislature do a study to see where we as a state are better prepared to protect our loved ones in LTVC facilities to look back at where we went wrong to look forward to doing what we can to better manage infection control.

AARP is fighting for accountability and transparency which would:

  •   require nursing homes to use a large % of the revenue received on direct care for residents—and to require these providers demonstrate to the state their direct patient spending.
  •   ensure quality care by providing adequate staffing levels.
  • require confirmed COVID-19 cases, deaths, and demographic data is available for residents, families – and the public – daily.
  • combat persistent social isolation by ensuring residents can connect with their loved ones, families, and other supports, through virtual visitation regardless of in-person visitation status.
  • hold nursing homes legally accountable for providing residents with quality care.
  • improve quality of care in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
  • help address workforce shortages by providing a living wage hazard pay increase for staff of long-term care facilities.

Nationally, AARP has supported several provisions in the reconciliation bill currently before Congress that would help address long-standing issues in skilled nursing facilities and help ensure that residents are receiving quality care. One provision AARP supports would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a study and submit a report to Congress on the appropriateness of establishing minimum staff to resident ratios for nursing staff in skilled nursing facilities and provide a process for implementation of such requirements.

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 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 rates within nursing homes and how they compare to state and national averages.

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