AARP Virginia report highlights continued COVID-19 impacts on nursing homes
Virginia ranks fourth in the nation in nursing home resident infections and sixth in the nation in nursing home resident deaths, according to AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard.
From Dec. 21-Jan. 17, deaths among residents increased to 2.78 per 100 residents, up from 1.52 in December. The rate of coronavirus cases per 100 residents increased from 10.4 to 14.2 among residents, and 7.1 to 9.5 among staff.
“The deaths and infections of Virginia’s most vulnerable people is a tragedy built upon years of neglect and inaction,” AARP Virginia State Director Jim Dau said. “This should serve as a wake-up call to the Virginia General Assembly, which once again failed to address woefully lacking infection controls and staffing needs.”
Earlier this month, the General Assembly set aside two bills supported by AARP Virginia that would have addressed long-standing challenges with staffing standards at long-term care facilities, a key component of the quality of care and infection prevention.
The Senate Subcommittee on Health Professions sent SB 1149, which was sponsored by Sen. Jen Kiggans (R–Virginia Beach) and would have set minimum staffing standards at these facilities, to the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Health Care to serve as a study framework, effectively tabling it for this year.
The House of Delegates Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources tabled HB 2156, which was introduced by Del. Vivian Watts (D–Annandale) and would have also established staffing standards.
“Virginia’s position at the top of this tragic list should be a source of shame and outrage for those leaders in a position to help prevent the deaths and infections of nursing home residents and staffs,” Dau said. “We urge Gov. Northam and members of the General Assembly to act with urgency to address this problem.”
The dashboard found that staffing and PPE shortages remain a significant problem. Shortages of PPE have declined slightly over the same period, from 14.9 percent of nursing homes without a one-week supply in December to 12.1 percent in January.
Staffing shortages remain a concern and nearly the same, with nearly 19 percent of facilities reporting a shortage in the most recent dashboard.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 3,177 residents of Virginia nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died, and more than 29,000 facility residents and staff have been infected with coronavirus.
People in long-term care facilities account for 5.4 percent of cases, but 45.7 percent of deaths in Virginia.
AARP has been urging Virginia lawmakers to protect nursing home residents and staff from COVID-19.
“We are approaching the one-year anniversary of the first known coronavirus cases in nursing homes, yet the number of deaths and infections in these facilities is at a record level,” Dau said. “The devastation this pandemic has brought to nursing home residents and their families has exposed fundamental problems in the industry, and reforms must be made in nursing homes and to the long-term care system.”
The nursing home industry in Virginia has struggled with quality care and infection control for years. AARP continues to urge elected officials to act immediately, focusing this year on enacting the following policies:
Ensure residents and staff of long-term care facilities can receive vaccinations as soon as possible to prevent further loss of life.
- Prioritizing regular and ongoing testing and adequate PPE for residents and staff—as well as for inspectors and any visitors.
- Improving transparency focused on daily, public reporting of cases and deaths in facilities; communication with families about discharges and transfers; and accountability for state and federal funding that goes to facilities.
- Ensuring quality care for residents through adequate staffing, oversight, and access to in-person formal advocates, called Long-Term Care Ombudsmen.
- Rejecting immunity and holding long-term care facilities accountable when they fail to provide adequate care to residents.
- Establishing minimum nursing staffing standards.
- Ensuring that increases in nursing homes’ reimbursement rates are spent on staff pay and to improve protections for residents.
- Improving minimum wages for staff in residential and home care settings.
- Ensuring progress is made so that in-person visitation can safely occur, and facilitating virtual visitation.
“Our leaders must reject policies that take away the rights of residents to hold nursing homes accountable when they fail to provide adequate care,” Dau said. “Now is not the time to let nursing homes off the hook for abuse, neglect, and even death.”
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.
The full Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard is available at www.aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard.
For more information on how COVID is impacting nursing homes and AARP’s advocacy on this issue, visit www.aarp.org/nursinghomes.