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February AARP Analysis Shows Devastating Impact of the Omicron Variant in Virginia Nursing Homes as Surge Peak Drove Cases to Highest Rate Since June 2020

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AARP Urges Legislators to Protect Nursing Home Residents

 RICHMOND _ As the number of COVID-19 cases declines nationwide and here in Virginia, AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, covering the four-week period ending January 23, paints a grim picture of the devastation caused by the surge of the Omicron variant in America’s nursing homes and underscores the need for booster shots to protect both residents and staff.

Staff cases were more than 11 times as high nationwide as in last month’s Dashboard (covering the four weeks ending December 19), with resident cases nationwide more than eight times as high.

Here in Virginia, staff cases spiked dramatically from a rate of 1.23 per 100 residents in December to 18.6 in January, the highest since the pandemic began. Resident cases increased nearly 10-fold from a rate of 1.49 to 14.4 per 100 residents during this same period, also the highest since the pandemic began. Nursing home resident deaths from COVID-19 more than doubled from a rate of .15 in December to .37 per 100 residents in January.

The latest data from the Dashboard also shows that as of January 23, 57% of nursing home residents in Virginia were fully vaccinated with a booster dose, an increase from mid-December. Less than 30% of direct care staff had received a booster, a slight increase from mid-December.

“We know boosters save lives, we know they help prevent infections and severe illness,” said Natalie Snider, state advocacy director of AARP Virginia, which serves nearly 1 million members age 50 and older in the state. “Even though the worst of the Omicron surge is hopefully behind us, the pandemic isn’t over. The delivery of booster doses to nursing home residents and staff must remain a high priority as these residents are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and its variants.”

The number of facilities in Virginia reporting a shortage of nurses or aides increased to 45% in the four weeks ending January 23.

“Adequate staffing levels are a key factor in providing high quality care and safe environments for our loved ones,” Snider said. “That’s why AARP is fighting for critical 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 fought for House Bill 646 which would have ensured quality care and helped address workforce shortages by requiring minimum hourly staffing standards for nursing homes. A House of Delegates subcommittee tabled the bill until the 2023 legislative session.

"The last two years have highlighted the chronic, ongoing issues that have long plagued nursing homes—understaffing, poor infection control, overcrowding, and more,” Snider said. "Now is the time to address these challenges that jeopardize the health and safety of nursing home residents."

AARP Virginia will continue to fight for reforms to protect nursing home residents and ensure long-term care facilities provide high-quality care. Specifically, AARP Virginia will continue to fight for minimum hourly staffing standards, guaranteeing that nursing home residents receive at least 4.1 hours of direct care per day, with 45 minutes of that care being provided by a Registered Nurse.

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

With nearly 1 million members in Virginia, AARP is the largest organization working on behalf of people age 50+ and their families in the Commonwealth. In recent years, AARP Virginia has successfully fought to expand health coverage for more Virginians, protect older people against financial exploitation and empower family caregivers.

To learn more about AARP Virginia, like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/aarpvirginia and follow @AARPVa on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aarpva.

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.

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