NORFOLK, Va. — The nonprofit AARP reports a winter COVID wave hit nursing homes hard over the past few weeks.
“We are just one new variant away from seeing these cases skyrocket back up,” said Virginia AARP Director Jim Dau.
A new report by AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard said nursing home deaths nationwide spiked by 23% from late December to mid-January.
Dau said that number increased by 160% across the Commonwealth.
“That is seven times the national average,” Dau said. “It is a stark demonstration for many of us who think that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.”
The report said COVID-19 cases for Virginia nursing home residents increased by 56% in the same period. Fortunately, Dau said the most recent data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that spike going down.
“The post-holiday season is kicking in and we are not doing that much,” Dau said.
The CDC’s national healthcare safety network data examines that spike. On December 18, 2022, they reported more than 350 nursing home resident COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths. On January 22, 2023, cases increased to more than 400 and 22 resident deaths. The most recent date logged shows cases at just under 300, with eight deaths on February 5.
Amy Hewett, Vice President of Communications with the Virginia Healthcare Association, said the cases aren’t as severe as the omicron wave at the start of 2022.
“Every death is a loss to families and loved ones and we certainly have sympathy for everyone,” Hewett said. “But it is still a very low number and we do know that the vaccines and the preventative measures we have been taking have helped.”
But to help keep cases low, Hewett and Dau urge nursing home residents to get COVID boosters. AARP data said just 53% of residents and 23% of staff in Virginia are up-to-date with COVID vaccinations.
“COVID fatigue is real, but we do know that vaccines can help reduce severe illness and death, which unfortunately our nursing home residents are so susceptible to,” Hewett said.