by Dan McCaleb
Nursing homes in the U.S. are seeing the lowest number of new COVID cases since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began tracking the data in May 2020,according to a new report from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).
The health care groups, which represent 14,000 nursing homes and long term care facilities in the U.S. that provide care to about five million people annually, say ythe study shows that the COVID-19 vaccines are working.
Specifically, nursing homes have seen an 82 percent drop in new cases since the peak during the week of Dec. 20, when there were more than 30,000 new resident cases, the report says.
“We still have a long road ahead, but these numbers are incredibly encouraging and a major morale booster for frontline caregivers who have been working tirelessly every day for a year to protect our residents,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL, said in a statement. “This new data showcases just how important it is for nursing homes residents and staff, as well as the general public, to get the vaccine because it is clearly working.”
Also since Dec. 20, community cases of COVID-19 dropped by 46 percent. And COVID-related deaths in nursing homes have dropped 63 percent since the same time period.
Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were the hardest hit when the pandemic began last year. Because its residents generally are older and have other underlying health conditions, nursing homes in some cases experienced upwards of 50 percent of states’ COVID-19-related deaths.
“Though this report brings hope, we cannot let our guard down. We must continue to encourage folks to get vaccinated, especially caregivers and staff,” Parkinson said. “Public health officials must also continue to ensure that long term care residents and staff remain the highest priority for accessing the vaccine, as the on-site clinics with CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacy partners are coming to a close.”
With the new data, AHCA/NCAL are calling on the Biden administration to review its guidance on restricting visitors to nursing homes and group activities,
“With millions of residents and caregivers now fully protected thanks to the vaccines, residents must be able to safely reengage in meaningful activities and be reunited with their loved ones,” Parkinson said.
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Dan McCaleb is the executive editor of The Center Square. He welcomes your comments. Contact Dan at [email protected]