It was just a few weeks ago that COVID cases were steadily declining. Then the delta variant hit, raging through the state and pushing cases up once again. As in the past, COVID-19 is a concern for those with loved ones in elder care facilities. We thought we could put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, but there is a rising number of cases in these facilities. This again puts the spotlight on the vaccination rate among staff, estimated to be 56%. Only one in five facilities in the state reach 75% staff vaccination.
Reason to still worry
According to Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s records, long-term facilities in Texas saw 70,000 Covid cases and 9,000 deaths from June 2020 to January 2021. Then active cases went from almost 7,000 in January to just 34 in June. But now, the case numbers have jumped ten-fold despite high vaccination rates among residents. The reasons are attributed to the delta variant and underlying health conditions that make many residents more vulnerable than the average person.
According to one report from late July, a Texas retirement community had nearly 100% vaccination for residents and over 70% for staff, yet still had two cases among residents and nine among the staff. In addition, there were 84 facilities with at least one case, and Inspiration Hells Rehabilitation Center in San Antonio tops the list with 32 active cases.
Feds issue a mandate
Obviously, these rates are much better than the alternative. Now, as the governor continues to try to dismantle proactive measures for folks of all ages, the federal government’s decision makers on this subject now mandating that all nursing homes participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs must require staff to be vaccinated. AARP had previously issued a statement advocating for mandatory vaccination for all nursing home/elder care facility staff, claiming it is too risky for the unvaccinated to come in close contact with vulnerable residents.
Families must remain vigilant
Despite raises in pay and hazard pay, the mandate could lead to shortages in staffing. There may be other undesirable outcomes as well. Nevertheless, the goal to keep everyone as safe as possible should remain a priority. Nursing home abuse and neglect should not be tolerated by families with loved ones in these facilities.