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

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

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) — Amid a historic workforce shortage, the Lowcountry’s most vulnerable residents are once again at risk.

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

Positive cases among employees increased by almost 900% over the same period, according to 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 at the AHCA/NCAL.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, says Gifford.

“What happens in the community is happening in nursing homes,” Gifford says. “The dramatic increase in resident cases and such was somewhat expected given the spread of Omicron in the community.”

Despite the new data, there is good news, according to Gifford.

“The good news is that the death rate is very low — ten times less than what we saw before the vaccine,” Gifford says. “But we still see people getting sick, going to the hospital and dying. That’s why we need help. We need help with staffing. We need help with drugs and we need help with test kits.”

The data in the chart below shows how much the death rate has fallen. While positive COVID-19 cases remain at similar levels to December 2020, the death rate is much lower because of the vaccine, Gifford says.

With a decline in the death rate comes a decline in the number of workers, which is not a new problem. Data in the AHCA report shows that the workforce shortage has increased from 221,000 to 234,000, down from 13,000 since mid-November.

Live 5 News contacted several local nursing homes and long-term care facilities, some reporting 0 cases and others more than 20. Most we got back were statements that they are doing what they can and are following the CDC’s guidelines and recommendations.

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