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With Omicron spreading like wildfire, AARP urges families to make sure nursing homes are keeping residents safe

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AARP has developed 10 key questions to ask facilities to help keep them safe and stay informed

Helena, Mont., Feb. 2, 2022 With the highly-contagious COVID-19 omicron variant still spreading like wildfire and infecting hundreds of Montanans every day, AARP Montana wants to be sure that residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are getting the proper care and necessary attention they need to stay as safe as possible.

For Montanans who have a spouse, sibling, parent, or other loved one in a nursing home, AARP has developed 10 key questions to ask facilities – including questions about booster shots – to help keep them safe and stay informed, says AARP Montana Government Affairs Director, Mike Batista.

Some of the questions to ask include, “What is the status of COVID-19 vaccinations in the facility, and is the facility screening and testing residents and staff for COVID-19 in line with government recommendations and regulations? And if COVID-19 is detected, is the facility ready to respond quickly to prevent further spread?

“Loved ones of nursing home residents have to be vigilant in asking the right questions and holding these facilities accountable for the care they are providing,” Batista said. “Has a positive case been identified at the nursing home in the past two weeks? Is the facility managing visits in line with government regulations? How is the facility communicating important COVID-19 information? Do they have enough staff and protective gear for residents? These are the questions loved ones need to be asking,” Batista said.

AARP Montana, representing more than 137,000 members age 50 and older in Montana, is calling for immediate action to get nursing home residents and staff vaccinated and boosted. Alarming new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the week ending January 30 shows more than 37,793 new staff COVID-19 cases in nursing homes nationwide, including 207 here in Montana. That’s 46 more cases than reported during November 2020 -- the peak of last winter’s spike of 161 cases.

Nursing home resident cases are also on the rise, with 33,884 new cases reported nationwide, including 88 in Montana during the same timeframe.

“The COVID-19 virus has demonstrated repeatedly that it is very dynamic. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant over the past weeks poses a significant risk for residents and staff of nursing homes who have not been boosted,” Batista said. “For their sake, we must act now and make the delivery of booster shots to nursing home residents and staff our highest priority.

Batista said AARP urges nursing homes to immediately prioritize boosters for both residents and staff. While still providing protection against severe illness and death, being fully vaccinated without a booster is no longer protecting nursing home residents from contracting COVID-19; the data are clear that a booster is necessary to remain protected.

“The rate of new infections in nursing home residents who have received a booster dose is more than 90 percent lower than the rate among residents who are not fully vaccinated, or who are vaccinated without an additional booster dose, according to CDC data.

According to the latest data from AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, as of mid-December 58 percent of nursing home residents in Montana were fully vaccinated with a booster dose, while only 18.5 percent of direct care staff had received a booster.

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About AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin.  To learn more visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.

About AARP Montana:
For nearly 50 years, AARP has been working right here in big sky country to improve the lives of the 50 plus. As a non-profit organization, AARP Montana advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. By fighting on issues that matter most to Montana families and providing trusted information, we’re helping to empower Montanans to choose how they live as they age. Today, over 137,000 strong, AARP Montana is one of the largest membership organizations in the state.  As a nonpartisan organization, AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political action committees, campaigns or candidates. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org/MT or follow @AARPMontana on social media.

About AARP Montana
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