Home Virginia COVID-19 nursing home deaths up 160 percent, on decline now

Virginia COVID-19 nursing home deaths up 160 percent, on decline now

Crystal Graham
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Nursing home deaths in Virginia in January were more than seven times the national average. However, new data suggests that the COVID-19 deadly outbreak in the state may have reached its peak.

According to AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, in Virginia, resident deaths increased by 160 percent in the four weeks ending Jan. 22, compared to the previous four weeks – more than seven times the national average.

Resident cases were up 56 percent, and staff cases were up by 82 percent during the same period.

However, more recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that deaths and cases in the two weeks since Jan. 22 declined by about one-third from the rates during the dashboard period.

The rates of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents nationwide increased 23 percent in the four weeks ending Jan. 22 compared to the previous dashboard period ending Dec.18.

The increase represents the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes nationwide since the first Omicron wave last winter.

“While it is good news that the early winter wave of COVID-19 appears to have peaked nationwide, this new report shows that our loved ones in nursing homes are still highly vulnerable to the virus,” said AARP Virginia State Director Jim Dau.

Vaccination rates among residents, staff

The new data show up-to-date vaccination rates among nursing home residents nationwide are progressing slowly while staff rates remain stalled.

“Vaccinations are the best defense against COVID-19, and we must remain vigilant about protecting this population,” said Dau.

For the dashboard period ending Jan. 22, 51 percent of nursing home residents nationwide and only 22 percent of staff were up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations.  In Virginia, 53 percent of residents and 23 percent of staff were up to date on their vaccinations. During the previous period, 49 percent of residents and 23 percent or staff were up to date.

AARP is urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to take additional steps to help increase up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination rates for nursing home residents and staff, saying more action is needed to build upon other recent steps to protect them.

Staffing at nursing homes

Nationwide, it’s estimated that more than 180,000 residents and staff of nursing homes have died due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began in early 2020.

The AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard also found that 20 percent of Virginia facilities reported a shortage of nurses or aides for the four weeks ending Jan. 22, a slight increase over the previous reporting period.

Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have passed legislation that would establish minimum staffing levels in nursing homes.

“For years, Virginians in nursing homes and their loved ones have suffered from not having enough qualified staff on hand to provide needed care,” Dau said. “This new bill is a good first step, and we know that much more needs to be done to care for the most vulnerable Virginians.”

Nationally, AARP also supports the establishment of mandatory federal minimum staffing levels or standards as a condition of participation for nursing homes in Medicare and Medicaid.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.