Omicron Surge Spikes COVID Cases Deaths in AZ Nursing Homes / Public News Service

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Nursing homes continue to report staffing shortages, and during the push for the Omicron variant in January, the number of infections and deaths in Arizona facilities rose dramatically.

According to AARPin the four weeks ending January 23, the rate of infection among residents of nursing homes increased eightfold, while the rate of testing positive for the virus increased 11fold. The number of deaths is also went from 28 to 39.

AARP Arizona State Director Dana Kennedy said you can’t provide quality care with too few people.

“We know that to ensure residents are well cared for, they need to have enough staff,” Kennedy said. “And a 34% shortage is a real concern. Arizona is one of the best in the country for staffing shortages.”

Kennedy said low vaccination rates were also part of the problem. The report shows that in January just over a third of nursing home residents in Arizona were vaccinated with a booster dose, while less than 20% of direct care staff were fully vaccinated.

Kennedy said that while some COVID numbers are down, now is not the time for nursing homes to let their guard down.

“A lot of these facilities were cited with infection control issues pre-COVID and during COVID,” Kennedy said. “And as our numbers go down, we still need to make sure they really understand what they need to do to minimize the risk of infection.”

She said AARP supports legislation that would ensure the safety of residents and their caregivers.

“We support House Bill 2387,” Kennedy said, “which would ensure quality care and help address labor shortages by providing a minimum staffing ratio for long-term care facilities.”

There was no organized opposition to HB 2387, although lobbyists for hospitals and other health care facilities generally opposed any bills proposing new regulations.

Disclosure: AARP Arizona contributes to our fund for reporting on policy and budget priorities, consumer issues, health issues, seniors’ issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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