Staff members at Florida nursing homes are not getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in significant numbers — and more Florida nursing homes are seeing the disease hit staff members than in any other state, AARP reported Thursday.
The nation’s largest organization representing people age 50 or older released a report showing the rate of Florida’s nursing homes with at least one staff member currently infected with COVID-19 is the highest level in the country,
And Florida nursing homes have the nation’s second-lowest rate of vaccinations against the virus among staff members.
Florida’s nursing home residents also lag most of the country in getting fully vaccinated.
AARP Public Policy Institute worked with Miami University’s Scripps Gerontology Center in Ohio to research nursing home vaccination rates. Together, the pair created a web-based Nursing Home COVID-19 dashboard to keep track.
The research was done using data released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services — which is self-reported by nursing homes. Federal data does not include coronavirus cases among residents or staff of assisted living facilities, group homes and other congregate eldercare facilities.
“It is sadly no surprise that Florida has the most nursing homes with new COVID-19 cases among staff. We saw this coming when it became clear that Florida trailed the nation in vaccinations of healthcare workers,” AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said in a news release. “Unvaccinated staff members living in communities with rising coronavirus cases makes it inevitable that our nursing home residents will suffer.
“The delta variant of this virus is hitting Florida hard, and our most vulnerable residents are paying the price. This new AARP report highlights the urgent need for vaccination of nursing home workers who are caring for our loved ones daily,” Johnson added. “It’s astounding that since April 2021, Florida’s vaccination rate of nursing home staff has been almost stagnant and is still far below the industry standard of 75% and the national average of 60.4%.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis has long made protections of nursing home residents a top priority in Florida’s strategy against the pandemic, and he has repeatedly pointed out that more than 85% of Florida’s seniors have received at least one vaccination shot.
However, the AARP/Miami of Ohio dashboard shows that just 72% of Florida’s nursing home residents are fully vaccinated — the third-lowest rate in the country. The site shows several northern states have more than 90% of nursing home residents fully vaccinated. Even all other southern states are over 75%.
Thursday’s news release from the AARP focuses on staff.
The AARP reported that 45% of nursing home staff members in Florida are vaccinated. Only Louisiana has a lower rate, at 44%. By contrast, the report says that in Hawaii, 87% of nursing home staff members are vaccinated, and in California, 80%.
With the delta variant powering the dramatic summer surge of new COVID-19 cases across Florida more than in any other state, 40% of Florida’s nursing homes are reporting at least one staff member have newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the AARP report. Missouri is second at 39%. California is reporting staff infections at 14% of its nursing homes, and Hawaii at 5%.
“As record-breaking cases continue to soar across the state, it’s time to double down on all efforts to increase vaccination of nursing home staff. Forty-five percent is unacceptable,” Johnson said. “We can do better; we must do better.”
AARP reports that COVID-19 has killed more than 186,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.