Story provided by AARP Rhode Island
COVID-19 continued to take a deadly toll on nursing home residents and staff in Rhode in the four weeks ending September 19, according to the latest data from AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard.
Resident deaths from COVID-19 increased from a rate of .02 deaths per 100 residents in mid-August to .03 in mid-September. Nationally, resident deaths from coronavirus doubled since the last dashboard release, with more than 2,000 lives lost in nursing homes during the same time period. New infections among Rhode Island residents and staff also increased.
Resident cases went from .34 to 1.14 per 100 residents, and new staff cases increased from .88 to 1.59 per 100. Cases and deaths would be even higher if not for the availability of vaccines, underscoring the importance of continuing access to COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots for eligible residents and staff.
Vaccination rates among nursing home residents and staff also have begun to rise slightly, with 95.2% of residents and 82.1% of staff fully vaccinated as of September 19 (up from 91.9% and 76.4% in mid August.) Nationally, more than half of health care staff in nursing homes are now vaccinated in every state. AARP has called on nursing homes and long-term care facilities to require that staff and residents be vaccinated against coronavirus, and the Biden Administration has announced plans to require vaccination for staff in nursing homes and most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments.
The new Dashboard also shows that chronic staffing shortages and PPE supplies remain nearly the same in Rhode Island nursing homes. In the four weeks ending September 19, 27% reported a shortage of nurses or aides, down from 28%, and 4.1% reported an urgent shortage of PPE, down from 9.3%. Nationally, staffing shortages also rose by 3 percentage points for the second month, with 29% of nursing facilities now reporting a shortage of nurses or aides – on par with the highest level seen during last winter’s COVID wave.
Nationally, AARP has supported several provisions in the reconciliation bill currently before Congress that would help address long-standing issues in skilled nursing facilities and help ensure that residents are receiving quality care. One provision AARP supports would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a study and submit a report to Congress on the appropriateness of establishing minimum staff to resident ratios for nursing staff in skilled nursing facilities and provide a process for implementation of such requirements.
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.