The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a threat to nursing home residents due to the highly contagious Delta variant. Learn how you can protect nursing home residents you love as the Delta variant continues to spread.
Does the Delta Variant Pose a Threat to Nursing Home Residents?
Yes: the aggressive COVID-19 Delta variant can cause severe illness or death for unvaccinated nursing home residents. The Delta variant spreads much more easily than other variants of COVID-19, especially in communal settings like long-term care facilities, which may create an unsafe scenario for residents.
An abundance of new COVID-19 cases can also reduce the ability of staff members to properly care for residents in long-term care facilities as the Delta variant surges. This can lead to higher instances of nursing home neglect and even abuse.
Between June 20 and August 1, 2021, there were over 85,000 COVID-19 cases every week within nursing homes — a significant increase compared to the number of weekly cases in the spring.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to be a major threat, nursing home residents and their loved ones must do all they can to stay safe.
Nursing Home Staff Members & COVID-19 Risks
Compounding the danger posed by the Delta variant, recent data reveals that only 60% of nursing home staff members across the country are fully vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that this relatively low percentage puts residents at a greater risk of COVID-19, as unvaccinated people can transmit the disease at higher rates. Since long-term care facilities house many residents at one time, the risk of coronavirus is amplified in these spaces.
Fortunately, the risks of COVID-19 can be reduced through practices implemented in nursing homes to protect residents, including the vaccination or regular testing of staff members who provide care within the facility.
How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Affected Nursing Home Residents
Prior to the highly contagious Delta variant emerging in 2021, COVID-19 was detrimental to nursing homes. Nursing homes house many older adults with underlying medical conditions in close living quarters, meaning the virus could easily spread with deadly consequences.
The Delta variant raised the risk posed to residents as it can cause more serious nursing home infections — particularly in unvaccinated people — and it’s more easily spread.
Tragically, nearly 190,000 nursing home residents have lost their lives to COVID-19 since 2020, making up one-third of the deaths attributed to the virus in the United States.
What Can Be Done to Protect Nursing Home Residents?
Loved ones can do their part to protect the residents of long-term care facilities by continuing to wear masks when visiting them. In particular, unvaccinated visitors — like young children who cannot receive the vaccine — should follow CDC guidelines to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Being unvaccinated for any reason means a person poses a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to others.
For further protection, consider researching whether you or your loved one qualifies for a third booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. The booster shot helps an individual maintain immunity and lowers the risk of disease transmission.
The booster shot has been approved for those at a higher risk of contracting the virus, including those 65 years or older and people living in long-term care facilities.
Another good step is to learn about the staff and resident vaccination rates at the nursing home you or a loved one lives in. While mandates are in place in certain states, it is documented that lower vaccination rates amongst staff correlate to higher risks of infection within nursing homes.
You or your loved one may want to switch long-term care facilities to stay safe if employee and/or resident vaccination rates remain low.
The Future of COVID-19 Vaccines and Nursing Homes
As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, more actions are being taken to ensure the safety of residents, including vaccination mandates and increased disease prevention protocols.
Over the summer, President Joe Biden announced a plan to mandate vaccines within nursing homes across America. This mandate can help reduce transmission of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities provided that unvaccinated workers don’t quit in large groups, which could lead to understaffing problems.
Nursing home administrators are also addressing this challenge by encouraging staff members and residents to get vaccinated. In some cases, nursing homes are rewarding financial bonuses to staff who receive the vaccine. These efforts to increase employee vaccination rates help to protect the older adults in their care.
We all must remain vigilant until the pandemic is controlled by following the CDC guidelines and by doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially in high-risk facilities like nursing homes. Recognizing the threat that COVID-19 and the Delta variant in particular pose to those in long-term care facilities is key to helping protect yourself and your loved ones.