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Nursing homes see increase in COVID-19 cases, decrease in workers

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 4:35 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 4:25 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Amid a historic worker shortage, the Lowcountry’s most vulnerable residents are at risk once again.

New data shows nursing homes have seen a dramatic spike in positive COVID-19 cases – nearly 700% in less than a month, from around 4,361 to 32,061.

Positive cases in staff members have spiked nearly 900% in the same time period, according to the data in a new report from the American Health Association and the National Center for Assisted Living.

This spike is alarming, according to Dr. David Gifford, MD, MPH, who is the Chief Medical Officer with the AHCA/NCAL.

However, it comes as no surprise, Gifford says.

“What happens in the community happens in nursing homes,” Gifford says. “The dramatic increase in the number of cases in residents and stuff was somewhat expected given Omicron’s spread in the community.”

In spite of the new data, there is good news, according to Gifford.

“The good news is that the death rate is very low- 10 times less than what we saw before the vaccine,” Gifford says. “But we’re still seeing people get sick, go to the hospital and dying. This is why we need help. We need help with staffing. We need help with medications, and we need help with test kits.”

The data in the chart below shows just how much the death rate has gone down. Though positive COVID-19 cases remain at similar levels seen in December 2020, the death rate is much lower, due to the vaccine, Gifford says.

With a decrease in the death rate comes a decrease in workers, which is not a new problem. Data in the report from AHCA show the worker shortage has gone from 221,000 staff members to 234,000, a decrease in 13,000 workers since mid-November.

Live 5 News reached out to several local nursing homes and long-term care facilities, some reporting 0 cases and other reporting upwards of 20. The most we got back were statements saying they’re doing what they can and following CDC guidelines and recommendations.

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