Cases of COVID decreased only slightly among Ohio nursing home residents and staff over the four weeks ending July 18, according to the latest release of AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard.
Any number of cases is concerning given the rise of new variants, the gaps in vaccinations among those in nursing homes, and the disproportionate numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 and high risk in nursing homes throughout the pandemic. More than 7,593 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Ohio have died from COVID-19 – representing around 37% of deaths, even though less than 1% of the population lives in these facilities nationally.
Vaccination rates remained about the same and remain low compared to goals at around 79% among residents and 52% among staff. Only 7.9% of nursing homes had at least 75% of staff vaccinated, which is the benchmark goal the industry has set for vaccinations in facilities.
“The high COVID death rates of residents and staff in nursing homes has been a national disgrace. As the new variants are emerging, Ohio facilities cannot let preventable problems be repeated. The key is to increase vaccinations, and do it now,” said Holly Holtzen, AARP State Director. “AARP is calling on nursing homes to require vaccinations for both staff and residents. The low levels of staff vaccinations in particular creates an unacceptable level of risk, since the disease spreads so easily in these environments. And facilities must ensure all residents are vaccinated, including providing vaccines to newly admitted residents.”
“We are encouraged by the dozens of other healthcare professional groups, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Nursing Association (ANA), calling for all healthcare workers to be vaccinated to protect the health and well-being of patients,” said Holtzen. “Nursing homes should require their staffs get vaccinated.”
While the new analysis shows rates of cases and deaths have improved from the height of the pandemic, chronic problems revealed during the COVID-19 pandemic continue. The most recent data shows that nearly 33% of nursing homes in Ohio still reported a shortage of nurses or aides.
“Nursing homes are paid to provide a service to the residents, which includes making sure staffing is sufficient to provide that care. These facilities can determine how best to meet their obligations to provide sufficient staffing while also ensuring that staff and residents are protected from this virus through vaccination. Whether they use incentives or consequences to increase vaccination is a decision best made by the facility.”
“If Ohio emerges from this pandemic without meaningful changes in our nursing homes and fragmented long-term care system, we have missed an opportunity.”
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.
AARP is providing information and resources about COVID-19 to help older Ohioans and has developed key questions for families to ask if a loved one is in a nursing home. For more information on how COVID is impacting nursing homes and AARP’s advocacy on this issue, visit aarp.org/nursinghomes.