COVID deaths are down in nursing homes, but other pandemic challenges remain

Published: Wednesday, July 27, 2022 - 10:40am
Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2022 - 10:41am

Two years ago, residents in long-term care were in isolation and often suffering. Nursing homes had shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. A lot has changed since — some good, some not so good. 

The bad news? David Voepel, CEO of the Arizona Health Care Association, says COVID-19 cases are on the rise

“However, it’s not going up in long term care, especially like it went up two years ago,” he said.

They’re also not seeing anywhere near the number of deaths they saw two years ago.

Vaccine hesitancy is still an issue. According to AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, less than 60% of residents are fully vaccinated with at least one booster. Among staff, that number plunges to 36%.

Another pain point?

“Staffing is still not good,” Voepel said. 

Staffing in nursing homes and assisted living has always been a challenge — even before COVID-19. But during the pandemic, staffing became a crisis issue. Voepel says it’s a tough problem to solve but they are working to train more paid caregivers.

“So we were given a grant by the governor’s office using ARPA dollars, the American Rescue Plan Dollars of $6.5 million to put 1500 CNAs and caregivers in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities throughout the state over a two year period,” he said.

Voepel says about 70 people have gone through the program.

Closures are also a concern.

“In Arizona, we run pretty lean on the skilled nursing facilities we have,” he said. “Instead of 147, I think we have 145 now.”

Coronavirus Aging Health + Medicine Vaccines