According to the newest update by the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, Wisconsin nursing homes have reached a record high for COVID-19 cases and deaths.
According to AARP's dashboard, from Oct. 19 to Nov. 15, 13.4 new COVID cases were reported per 100 residents, making it three times higher than the previous four-week period.
Deaths increased inside nursing homes as well. AARP reports 2.11 COVID-19 per 100 residents, making it more than seven times higher than the previous four-week period.
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“With coronavirus surging across the country, nursing home residents remain in grave danger as the virus reenters nursing homes and other facilities at an alarming pace,” said AARP State Director Sam Wilson. “Despite interventions taken to date by public health officials and nursing home providers, facilities continue to have shortages of the staff and PPE needed to keep residents and workers safe and stop the spread. Our nursing home dashboard data should have state leaders redoubling their efforts now to save lives."
In response to these numbers, created a report of recommendation to improve conditions.
Recommendations highlighted in the report include:
- Keeping current plans in place for emergencies that address both resident and staff needs;
- Creating state LTSS emergency operations and response centers to identify emergency needs and deploy resources;
- Increasing resident access to telehealth as a supplement to in-person care;
- Ensuring resident care plans address their isolation, risk for depression, and ability to interact with loved ones;
- Ensuring long-term care staff have health insurance, paid sick leave, and competitive wages
The AARP dashboard will continue to be updated every four weeks; you can view the numbers here.
In southeast Wisconsin alone, TMJ4 News has reported on outbreaks at nursing homes in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Ozaukee, Washington, Sheboygan, and Dodge Counties.
“The outbreak in any nursing facility is directly correlated to the outbreak in the community,” said Rick Abrams, the President and CEO of Wisconsin Healthcare Association. “The infection is going to come from the outside, whether it's through a visitor or staff member. The bottom line is, until we get the community spread under control, we're not going to see that curve flatten and go down at nursing homes.”
Abrams says the state is funneling $80 million in federal Cares Act funding into nursing homes. Much of that money will go towards rewarding current staff and attracting new workers.
Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services has hired a staffing agency to help, and has made it easier for nurses licensed in other states to come work here
DHS is also working with the University of Wisconsin system to recruit nursing students to work at nursing homes during their winter, spring and summer breaks.
“In return, certainly our facilities are going to pay them, but they're also going to receive a $500 credit,” Abrams said.
The Covid-19 vaccine is offering some new hope, since nursing home residents and staff will be among the first to get it. However, experts say it still might be a while before it’s broadly administered to this entire high-risk population. To put the size of nursing home population in perspective, there are more than three million nursing home residents nationwide, and about 21 million health care workers.