Nursing home residents and staff experienced a surge in coronavirus in the four weeks ending August 22, several days prior to Hurricane Ida landfall. Although almost a full week prior to the hurricane, resident cases still increased from 56 to 519, and staff cases increased from 135 to 1,171 since the mid-July report, according to the latest data from AARP's Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard. Resident deaths have also increased from 3 to 49 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 the Biden Administration announced plans in August to require vaccination for nursing home staff. There were modest increases in vaccination rates in this four-week period, with 82.5% of Louisiana residents and 47.9% of staff fully vaccinated as of August 22. This is considerably lower 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," said Denise Bottcher, AARP Louisiana State Director. "For unvaccinated nursing home residents, their risk of infection is back up to the levels we saw a year ago. At least 3,071 people in Louisiana 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 an increase in staff shortages in the period ending August 22, with 36.2% of facilities in Louisiana 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.
AARP Louisiana continues to fight to protect nursing home residents and ensure long-term care facilities provide high-quality care. If you have an older spouse, sibling, parent, or other loved one in a nursing home, here are eight key questions to ask, as recommended by experts:
- How far along are COVID-19 vaccinations?
- Has anyone in the facility tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks?
- What is the facility doing to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks?
- How are staff and other people entering the facility being screened for COVID-19?
- What is the nursing home doing to help residents stay connected with their families or other loved ones during this time?
- How is the facility communicating important information to residents and their loved ones on a regular basis?
- Is the nursing home currently at full staffing levels for nurses, aides, and other workers?
- How are healthy living programs being maintained?