HealthDay News — Residents of nursing homes have been a particularly high-risk group throughout the pandemic, and the advent of the fast-spreading omicron variant has them facing another wave of infections and deaths, new data show.
During the week ending Jan. 9, U.S. nursing homes reported more than 32,000 COVID-19 cases and 645 deaths among their residents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is a sevenfold increase in cases from a month earlier and a 47 percent increase in deaths. About 57,200 nursing home workers also had COVID-19 that same week, a tenfold increase from a month earlier, the CDC said.
“We need to build a Fort Knox around protecting nursing homes, but we’re not doing that right now, and that’s why cases are surging,” Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, told the Associated Press. “We’re going to have exponential numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.”
Still, vaccination efforts may have made a real impact in saving lives: Even with the dramatic increases in cases, the death toll from COVID-19 at nursing homes is still a fraction of those in December 2020, when the CDC says about 6,200 deaths per week were recorded. About 87 percent of nursing home residents have been fully vaccinated, the CDC says, and 63 percent have received their third doses. Among staff at care facilities, about 83 percent are fully vaccinated and 29 percent have their boosters.
To further protect residents, Feigl-Ding recommends vaccines, mandatory boosters, testing visitors, using medical-grade masks (such as N95s), and using high-efficiency air filters.
Nursing homes are working to protect their residents by once again putting limits on visitors, sometimes by keeping them in common areas with physical distance; providing surgical masks or requiring proof of a negative test; and holding vaccine clinics and town hall meetings on the importance of vaccines and boosters.