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Delta Variant Raising Concerns In Long-Term Care Facilities

Health officials in some states have begun sounding the alarm about coronavirus outbreaks among long-term care facilities, with nursing home staff and residents being impacted as the highly contagious delta variant fuels cases in communities across the country.

Covid-19 deaths in long-term care facilities have plunged with the availability of vaccines, and government data shows 81 percent of nursing home residents are now fully vaccinated. But the rise of the delta variant and concerns about the vaccination rate of the people working in those facilities, which in some states in the South is lower than 50 percent, has experts and advocates worried about outbreaks.

COVID virus is surging
[Image via U.S. Secretary of Defense, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
While experts said there is no data yet to suggest Covid cases are spiking widely in long-term care facilities and nursing homes nationwide, in some places, including Mississippi and Indiana, officials have said unvaccinated workers are spreading the virus. The fears come as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to warns that Delta is “highly contagious and likely to be more severe” and that although rare, “breakthrough infections may be as transmissible as unvaccinated cases.”

In Mississippi, the state epidemiologist said Wednesday there were more than 100 outbreaks in long-term care facilities in the state, 72 of which were in nursing homes. In Indiana, seven residents died recently at an unnamed facility where less than half of the staff was vaccinated, local health officials said earlier this month. Cases have also been rising in Southern states, including in Louisiana and Texas.

The primary concern among experts and advocates is over the low number of vaccinated staff in some states, especially in the South, reflecting the challenge of uneven vaccination rates across the country.

Nationally, some 58 percent of staff and 81 percent of residents in nursing homes have been vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But those numbers can vary greatly depending on the state, with Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky ranking among the lowest, with less than 50 percent of staff having had completed their vaccinations.

On Monday, nearly 60 major health care organizations signed a joint statement in support of vaccine mandates for workers in health and long-term care. Among them was LeadingAge, which represents more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers, including nursing homes.



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