Florida led the nation in nursing home resident and staff deaths in the four weeks ending Aug. 22, the American Association of Retired People (AARP) reported Wednesday in a “four-week snapshot” analysis.
According to the Florida Fact Sheet webpage accessible via AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, 237 residents and 13 staff in state nursing homes died from the disease during the span, accounting for 21% of all nursing home resident deaths and 17% of all staff deaths due to the virus nationwide.
Meanwhile, Florida’s 73.6% vaccination rate of 160,000 residents in 700-plus nursing homes is third-worst among all states except Nevada and Arizona, and its 48.5% vaccination rate among nursing home employees – up 3% from July – is still the nation’s lowest percentage other than Louisiana’s 47.9% rate.
“It is a frightening, tragic time in our state. The new data released in today’s dashboard is a heartbreaking reminder that the pandemic is not over,” AARP Florida Director Jeff Johnson said in a Wednesday statement. “As vaccination rates have stalled, COVID cases have risen, and Florida nursing home deaths have soared to the highest in the nation.”
Florida’s total number of COVID-19 deaths topped 50,000 Thursday with the seven-day average of new deaths the second-highest pace since the pandemic emerged in March 2020.
According to data reported by Florida to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), at least 3.473 million confirmed cases and 50,811 deaths attributed to the disease have been recorded in the state the last 17 months.
AARP’s analysis states that 4,986 Florida nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 since March 2020 – 12% of the state’s total fatalities – and 109 nursing home workers have been killed by the virus since June 1, 2020.
“These sadly predictable data trends are also preventable,” Johnson said. “Our most vulnerable residents deserve to be protected from this devastating disease. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated.”
The AARP Public Policy Institute and the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio analyzed U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data to compile the analysis. Florida stopped reporting this data publicly in May.
Florida during the four-week span had a COVID-19 death rate for nursing-home residents of 0.36 per 100 residents, tied with Alaska nation’s highest.
Only 7% of Florida’s nursing homes meet the industry standard to vaccinate at least 75% of staff. The percent of Florida nursing homes reporting new staff cases of COVID-19 more than doubled since July’s report, increasing from 40.3% to 94%, the nation’s highest and nearly double the national average of 51%. The percent of new resident cases quadrupled during the same time period, from 12.6 to 61%, three times the national average of 20%. Approximately 22% of Florida’s nursing homes suffer from staffing shortages, up from 18% in July.
The Biden administration announced in August that nursing homes that receive Medicaid and Medicare funding must fully vaccinated staffs. The White House last week expanded the mandate to other types of healthcare facilities, including hospitals.
The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), which represents about 80% of the state’s nursing homes, expressed fears the mandate would lead to unvaccinated workers on already-thin staffs leaving their jobs, but praised the extension.
“A broadened vaccination policy will help protect our residents who often interact with other healthcare professionals for their care needs,” FHCA CEO Emmett Read said in a statement. “We know the vaccine is the safest way to protect our residents, and we support efforts that will help get more people vaccinated.”