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Nursing Home Deaths On The Rise in Wyoming

Nursing home staff and resident
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Residents of Wyoming’s skilled nursing facilities continue to take the brunt of the COVID 19 impacts, according to information distributed by AARP Wyoming covering a four-week period ending Nov. 15. The AARP COVID 19 Nursing Home Dashboard (and accompanying state-specific data) also references Wyoming as having the third-highest ratio of COVID deaths per 100 nursing home residents in the nation. 

Wyoming’s Nursing Home Resident Deaths per 100 residents ratio of 2.95 per 100 residents ranks the state third in the nation behind South Dakota (4.82), and Montana (3.12) for the four week period ending Nov. 15. Wyoming also ranks seventh in the nation in the number of nursing home resident cases per 100 residents at 12.4 per 100. South Dakota’s ratio of 22.1 leads the nation in that category as well.

Residents of skilled nursing facilities made up 85% of all COVID-19 deaths in the State of Wyoming over the four week period ending Nov. 15, 2020. In all, nursing home residents in Wyoming have accounted for 71 deaths or 58% of all COVID-19 deaths recorded in Wyoming this year. 

COVID’s impact inside nursing homes are perhaps no better illustrated than by the fact 63.6% of nursing homes reported a staffing shortage of direct care workers for the month ending Nov. 15. That is up from 52% the previous four-week period. High increases in nursing home staff with COVID cases is the likely cause, as the data suggests a rate of 13 staff cases per 100 residents were recorded, up from 3.9 staff cases per 100 residents in the previous four-week period.

“These numbers really underscore the need for visitors to nursing homes to be cognizant of policies put in-place to keep their loved ones safe,” says AARP Wyoming State Director Sam Shumway. “We have heard reports in recent weeks of the public ignoring safety protocols. When that happens, nursing home residents and staff suffer.”

AARP’s dashboard also notes 42% of the state’s nursing homes had confirmed cases for the four week period ending Nov. 15, which is above the national average of 38%. In the four week period ending Nov. 15, 87% of nursing homes in the state reported at least one confirmed case of COVID 19. That is much higher than the national average of 69%. Closer to home, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon recently authorized the use of $10 million of CARES Act money to alleviate nursing home staffing shortages in the State. That authorization came in December and it is unknown the impact of that spending on staffing metrics at-present.

The number of nursing homes with less than a month’s worth of PPE has also increased from 26% during a four week period ending in Oct. to 30.3% for the four week period ending Nov. 15. N95 masks were listed as the toughest item to find followed by gowns and gloves.

This third AARP COVID-19 dashboard aggregates and analyzes self-reported data from nursing homes available from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), with data analyzed by Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University. Additional analysis and dashboard preparation by the AARP Public Policy Institute.

 AARP’s Policy Stance on COVID and Nursing Homes

More than 106,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19, representing about 40 percent of all coronavirus fatalities in the U.S. Yet federal policymakers have been slow to respond to this crisis, and no state has done a good enough job to stem the loss of life. AARP has called for the enactment of a 5-point plan to protect nursing home and long-term care facility residents — and save lives — at the federal and state levels:

  • Prioritize regular and ongoing testing and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents and staff — as well as inspectors and any visitors.
  • Improve transparency focused on daily, public reporting of cases and deaths in facilities; communication with families about discharges and transfers; and accountability for state and federal funding that goes to facilities.
  • Ensure access to in-person visitation following federal and state guidelines for safety, and require continued access to virtual visitation for all residents.
  • Ensure quality care for residents through adequate staffing, oversight, and access to in-person formal advocates, called long-term care Ombudsmen.
  • Reject immunity for long-term care facilities related to COVID-19.

The federal government has taken some action, such as requiring nursing homes to self-report COVID-19 cases and deaths at the federal level, ordering testing, and providing limited PPE and other resources to nursing homes, as well as issuing guidance for in-person visitation to resume. But, as cases and deaths continue to rise, more must be done. AARP continues to urge elected officials to take action to combat this national tragedy — and to ensure that public funds provided to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are used for testing, PPE, staffing, virtual visits, and for the health and safety of residents.

AARP will continue to shine a light on what’s happening in nursing homes so that families have the information they need to make decisions, and lawmakers can be held accountable. For more information, visit aarp.org/nursinghomes.

LTSS Choices

As the pandemic continues to place a spotlight on the shortcomings of the country’s long-term care system, the AARP Public Policy Institute has launched LTSS Choices, a multifaceted project designed to advance the transformation and modernization of the nation’s long-term services and supports (LTSS) system. A new report in the series examines the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on long-term care facilities and solutions to improve quality. Recommendations highlighted in the report include:

  • Keeping current plans in place for emergencies that address both resident and staff needs
  • Creating state LTSS emergency operations and response centers to identify emergency needs and deploy resources
  • Increasing resident access to telehealth as a supplement to in-person care
  • Ensuring resident care plans address their isolation, risk for depression, and ability to interact with loved ones
  • Ensuring long-term care staff have health insurance, paid sick leave, and competitive wages
  • Encouraging new models of LTSS facilities that can improve infection control with private rooms and bathrooms
  • Imposing more meaningful fines and other penalties, especially for facilities that place residents in immediate jeopardy due to infection control violations
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