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AARP Texas Urges Legislators to Focus on Nursing Home Safety

Rates of COVID-19 deaths and cases in nursing homes have declined dramatically in Texas and nationwide as the Omicron wave recedes, according to AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, covering the four-week period ending March 20.

However, the virus still remains a threat for some of our most vulnerable loved ones.  About one thousand nursing home residents died nationwide of COVID-19 during the Dashboard’s most recent reporting period, with more than 25,000 new resident and staff cases reported nationwide as well.

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Here in Texas, resident deaths were down from a rate of .45 per 100 residents in the four-week period ending February 20, to .09 per 100 residents in the four-week period ending March 20. 

The latest data from the Dashboard shows that as of March 20, 55 percent of nursing home residents in Texas were fully vaccinated with one booster dose, a slight increase from mid-February. Among staff, 30 percent are fully vaccinated with a booster dose, a slight increase from mid-February.

“These numbers, while hopeful, show the virus isn’t done with us yet,” said Tina Tran, state director of  AARP Texas, which serves nearly 2.3 million members age 50 and older in Texas. “As public health officials keep an eye on the Omicron subvariant BA.2, booster doses for nursing home residents and staff remain vitally important to protecting this vulnerable population.”

The percentage of facilities in Texas reporting a shortage of nurses or aides decreased slightly to nearly 14 percent in the four weeks ending March 20. 

 “Adequate staffing levels are crucial in providing high-quality care and safe environments for our loved ones,” said Tran. “No nursing home resident should have to settle for poor quality care. AARP is fighting for important legislation that addresses staffing inadequacies and other chronic issues that were all too common in many of the state’s nursing homes long before the pandemic hit.” 

AARP Texas will be fighting for reforms to protect nursing home residents and ensure long-term care facilities provide high-quality care. Specifically, AARP Texas will work to:

  • require nursing home owners to put the majority of taxpayer funding toward direct care for residents—and report this spending.  
  • ensure quality care by requiring nursing homes to provide adequate staffing.
  • make sure confirmed COVID-19 cases, deaths, and demographic data are available for residents, families – and the public – daily.
  • combat often-fatal isolation by connecting residents with their families through virtual visitation. 
  • hold nursing homes legally accountable for providing residents with quality care.
  • improve quality of care in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

"No nursing home resident should ever have to settle for poor quality care,” said Tran. "The pandemic has highlighted the chronic, ongoing issues that have long plagued nursing homes—understaffing, poor infection control, overcrowding, and more.  We cannot allow this to become the new norm.”
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. 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 and booster rates within individual nursing homes and how they compare to state and national averages.

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