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Virginia reports fewer COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes, a good sign for vaccine efficacy

Leaders in the long-term care facility industry said more than 80% of residents have received COVID-19 vaccinations so far.

NORFOLK, Va. — Coronavirus outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Virginia and North Carolina have dropped dramatically since January; an encouraging sign for public health leaders reviewing the efficacy of widespread vaccinations.

In Virginia, more than 80% of residents in senior care facilities have been vaccinated, according to leaders in the industry. 

The Virginia Department of Health has been collecting data on how many staff members have been vaccinated, and vaccine coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula, said the department should share statistics next week.

Meanwhile, coronavirus case numbers in long-term care facilities are falling each week, according to VDH data.

“We do believe the vaccine is having an effect and we hope that will grow as time goes on," said Keith Hare, president and CEO of VHCA-VCAL. "We anticipate [outbreaks and cases] will drop significantly in March and April."

Vaccine clinics in nursing homes started on December 28, 2020. 

In January, Virginia averaged 31.5 long-term care coronavirus outbreaks per week. In February, Virginia averaged 14.3 outbreaks per week.

“There was one facility that said it was a shot in the arm for hope, and I think that’s about the best way you can sum it up," Hare said.

Consulate Health Care of Norfolk is the only long-term care facility in Hampton Roads to report a coronavirus outbreak with more than 5 deaths in 2021. 

The facility reported the outbreak to the Virginia Department of Health on January 13. In total, 54 people tested positive and 6 have died in that outbreak.

VDH reports all 285 skilled nursing have facilities have completed their first and second dose clinics for residents.

As of Feb. 23, 97% of the 1,058 assisted living facilities had completed their first dose clinics, and 67% of those assisted living facilities had completed second dose clinics.

VDH says a survey of LTCFs is underway that will "gauge rates or percentages of staff and residents vaccinated." 

A VDH spokesperson said: "We continue to see steady declines in cases and outbreaks in LTCFs which is good news, but it is still incredibly important to remain vigilant, particularly as we are so close to getting more and more people vaccinated."

“We talk about having herd immunity and we really believe nursing facilities are well on their way to becoming very safe places," said Hare. “To really beat the pandemic we have to have the entire community, at least 75% of individuals, take that vaccine.”

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services also reports COVID-19 cases are “declining rapidly in long-term care settings.” 

More than 205,000 LTCF residents and staff members have received shots in North Carolina.