Ohio Nursing Homes Know COVID-19 Case, Death Toll Rises

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Ohio hospitals are under siege with COVID-19 cases and now nursing homes across the state are starting to look alike.

“The latest increase is the highest reported since February of this year,” said Holly Holtzen, state director for AARP Ohio.

Holtzen said that over the past month, nursing homes have seen 10 times the number of COVID-19 cases among residents and double the number of deaths.

According to the Ohio COVID-19 Nursing Home Dashboard, nearly 82% of Ohio nursing home residents have been reported as fully immunized, while 54% of staff have been reported fully vaccinated.

“Compared to the previous four weeks, vaccination rates among residents and staff increased slightly, but remained well below what is needed to protect the health of residents,” said Holtzen.

That’s why AARP is pushing for vaccination mandates among nursing home staff, a decision echoed by President Joe Biden.

Local health officials fear this may cause workers to back down.

“We are very concerned about the impact of the tenure on staff and on who will care for our residents,” said Peter Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association.

Van Runkle believes the pressure of a vaccination warrant could cause staff who are reluctant to get vaccinated to quit.

Lack of staff is an issue Van Runkle and Holtzen said they have struggled with for some time.

“You see throughout society, wherever you go, they are looking for staff, but in long term care, these are places where people live,” Van Runkle said.

“Long before the pandemic, labor shortages were a chronic problem in nursing homes due to relatively low wages, harsh working conditions and limited benefits,” Holtzen said.

The AARP has reported a less than 2% increase in staff shortages since last month. At least a third of Ohio establishments report they still don’t have enough workers.

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