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COVID deaths and cases are rising again at US nursing homes

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Edward Williams, 62, a resident on the Hebrew Residence at Riverdale, receives a COVID-19 booster shot in New York, Sept. 27, 2021. COVID-19 infections are hovering once more at U.S. nursing houses due to the omicron wave, and deaths are climbing too. (Seth Wenig, Related Press)

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WASHINGTON — COVID-19 infections are hovering once more at U.S. nursing houses due to the omicron wave, and deaths are climbing too, resulting in new restrictions on household visits and a renewed push to get extra residents and employees members vaccinated and boosted.

Nursing houses had been the deadly epicenter of the pandemic early on, earlier than the vaccine allowed lots of them to reopen to guests final 12 months. However the wildly contagious variant has dealt them a setback.

Nursing houses reported a near-record of about 32,000 COVID-19 circumstances amongst residents within the week ending Jan. 9, an virtually sevenfold enhance from a month earlier, based on the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

A complete of 645 COVID-19-related deaths amongst residents had been recorded throughout the identical week, a 47% enhance from the precedent days. And there are fears that deaths might go a lot increased earlier than omicron is thru.

Regardless of the rising numbers, the scenario will not be as dire because it was in December 2020, when nursing residence deaths per week topped out at about 6,200. Specialists credit score the excessive vaccination charges now amongst nursing residence residents: About 87% are totally vaccinated, based on CDC information.

COVID-19 photographs and boosters present robust safety in opposition to extreme sickness, hospitalization and dying, however the sick and aged are uniquely weak to the virus.

Nursing residence officers say they’re responding to the outbreak by limiting guests to widespread areas as an alternative of permitting them into residents’ rooms, and by reinstituting social distancing.

Some states, like New York, have put their very own measures in place, like requiring proof of a destructive take a look at for guests and offering all with surgical masks.

Nursing houses are additionally working to drive up vaccination numbers, particularly for boosters. Sixty-three p.c of nursing residence residents nationally have acquired an additional dose.

Residents dine together, but socially distant, in the dining hall at RiverWalk, an independent senior housing facility, in New York, April 1, 2021.
Residents dine collectively, however socially distant, within the eating corridor at RiverWalk, an unbiased senior housing facility, in New York, April 1, 2021. (Photograph: Seth Wenig, Related Press)

Booster numbers are a lot worse for workers members. About 83% are totally vaccinated, however solely 29% have gotten an additional dose.

Nursing houses have been holding vaccine clinics and city corridor conferences to emphasize the significance of the photographs.

In addition they bought one other device to extend vaccinations Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Courtroom upheld a Biden administration vaccine mandate for most health care workers within the U.S.

About 57,200 nursing residence employees — by far the very best quantity on document throughout the pandemic — had the virus within the week ending Jan. 9, a greater than tenfold enhance from a month earlier, based on the CDC.

Sharon Wheeler was shocked to be taught that her 88-year-old, dementia-stricken father not too long ago contracted COVID-19 at a Naperville, Illinois, nursing residence. She mentioned she hopes the truth that he’s totally vaccinated and boosted will assist him pull by means of.

She mentioned she suspects guests and residents coming and going across the holidays introduced COVID-19 inside. Wheeler hasn’t been allowed to see her father, however the employees advised her he had gentle signs.

“I labored so arduous to verify he by no means bought (COVID-19), as a result of I used to be so terrified,” she mentioned. “He is such an older man, and I do not need to lose him this fashion.”

Vaccines are simply one of many many instruments that must be used to defend the aged in opposition to omicron, mentioned Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow on the Federation of American Scientists. He additionally advisable testing of holiday makers, obligatory boosters and using medical-grade masks like N95s and high-efficiency air filters.

“We have to construct a Fort Knox round defending nursing houses, however we’re not doing that proper now, and that is why circumstances are surging,” Feigl-Ding mentioned Thursday. “We will have exponential numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.”

The virus dealt a devastating blow in late November to the New Hampshire nursing residence Todd Fernald runs, referred to as Webster at Rye, the place 100% of residents and employees had been vaccinated — however not boosted.

“COVID ripped by means of this constructing in 10 seconds,” Fernald mentioned, recalling how, on the day that additional photographs had been scheduled to be administered, an outbreak occurred that might finally kill six residents, infect dozens of others and sicken 20 workers.

Since then, practically all residents have been boosted, and workers are getting their third photographs.

“I solely misplaced one worker who did not need to be vaccinated and selected to resign their job,” Fernald mentioned. “I am having an increasing number of individuals every week that I see are getting boosted and bringing me their booster playing cards.”

Ensuring that services have provides like exams is essential too, mentioned Lisa Sanders of LeadingAge, an affiliation of nonprofit suppliers of growing old providers, together with nursing houses.

“Older adults and the individuals they look after must be prioritized for assist and provides as they grow to be out there,” Sanders mentioned.

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