Following an increase in COVID-19 cases among nursing home professionals and a significant lag in booster immunization for residents and staff, federal health officials encouraged nursing home workers to obtain their booster injections on Thursday.
In a livestreamed appeal to the sector, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra claimed the omicron variant “is lightning quick,” and that “we can’t afford another COVID-19 rise in nursing homes.” “You’re aware of that.” That is something I am aware of. Increased COVID cases will undoubtedly have a catastrophic effect on our loved ones once again… and we know we’ll have to fight much harder to keep them safe.”
Nursing homes are putting President Joe Biden’s claim that the US is considerably more equipped to deal with a spreading epidemic than it was last winter to the test. Although they make up a small percentage of the population, they account for a disproportionately large number of Americans who died as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.
The introduction of immunizations earlier this year brought the virus under control in nursing facilities, allowing them to reopen to visitors. However, as omicron pushes COVID-19 instances to new highs for the country, that return to normalcy may be jeopardized.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 10,353 cases among nursing care employees for the week ending Dec. 27, up nearly 80% over the previous week. The number of staff deaths has risen to 58, more than doubling from the previous week. Cases increased somewhat among individuals who are more thoroughly vaccinated, but there was no rise in deaths, according to the statistics.
Despite the fact that medical authorities recommend a booster injection to protect against omicron, Becerra claims that just 57 percent of nursing home patients and 25% of staff had received boosters. According to White House data, those 65 and over have a booster rate of about 66 percent, while adults of all ages have a rate of roughly 45 percent.
The Obama administration is asking the nation’s 1,400 federally supported community health centers to join forces with local nursing homes in a new immunization drive.
Nursing home personnel were due to be completely vaccinated by January 4 under a previous mandate from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which ordered staff at government-funded health care facilities to obtain their injections.
The Supreme Court has scheduled a special session next week to hear arguments on that edict, as well as the far broader Biden administration vaccine mandate for workers at bigger corporations of all types. The instructions would have a total impact of nearly 100 million employees.
“Once again, nursing homes are truly the ground zero,” said David Grabowski, a Harvard health policy researcher who has been tracking the pandemic’s impact on residents and staff. “It’s often possible to see how successfully we’re fighting this infection by looking at the nursing homes.”
Grabowski believes the Biden administration is correct in sounding the alarm at this time. He continued, “We observe this time and time again: When staff (infection) rates go up, resident rates go up.” Staff can unintentionally carry the virus in from the surrounding community, which is a major cause of nursing facility epidemics.
Nursing facilities were able to weather the delta variant outbreak earlier this year thanks to vaccines, and timely booster injections should help prevent omicron. “Over the course of the winter, the more vaccinations and boosters we have, the more lives we will save,” Grabowski added.
However, several states are already experiencing difficulties.
Officials say the number of breakouts in Mississippi nursing homes has nearly quadrupled in the last week, indicating the state is on the verge of another large epidemic of viral infections and hospitalizations.
In Mississippi nursing facilities, there were 63 outbreaks. In a midweek message to Mississippi hospitals and health care professionals, state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers noted that the figure was nearly double that recorded last week.
Byers said that this, together with other evidence, indicates “extremely fast expansion of COVID-19 infection and transmission…we have already reached our 5th wave of COVID-19 in the state.”
The administration’s drive on boosters has the support of one of the major nursing care business groups.
“Double down on their efforts to get as many residents and employees completely vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible,” the American Health Care Association stated in a statement.