COVID-19 deaths doubled at Wisconsin nursing homes from Aug.-Sept., AARP says

NOW: COVID-19 deaths doubled at Wisconsin nursing homes from Aug.-Sept., AARP says

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- There are more troubling signs COVID-19 continues to take a toll on Wisconsin nursing homes. New statistics released on Monday, Oct. 18, show COVID-19 deaths doubled at these facilities according to AARP Wisconsin.

Deaths related to COVID-19 in nursing homes increased from a rate of 0.05 per 100 residents in mid-August to 0.11 in mid-September, according to AARP's monthly dashboard tracker. That amounts to 20 residents losing their lives to the virus during this time, said AARP state director Sam Wilson.

While vaccinations are helping, Wilson is worried there are still far too many COVID-19 infections and deaths at nursing homes. AARP and other long-term care advocacy groups are now working to encourage more staff to get the vaccine before things get worse.

"When we look at the data, it is a precautionary way to say the things we saw last fall before things got really bad in the winter are starting to show up again," Wilson said. "We still have a vulnerable population living within our communities and we need to do everything possible to protect them."

As of September, 87.7% of Wisconsin nursing home residents are vaccinated, but only 65% staff have got the shot.

"It's disturbing, and what is means is we just have to make sure we try and get more and more people vaccinated so they are protected," said John Sauer, president/CEO of LeadingAge Wisconsin.

AARP is hopeful President Joe Biden's federal vaccine mandate for nursing home employees will help reduce the number of infections and deaths. Details remain unknown when the vaccine requirement will go into effect. In the meantime, AARP is working to encourage more staff to get the vaccine now, instead of waiting for the mandate to occur.

"We want to use the data to guide us to make sure we don't have a repeat of last winter, which is when cases and death rates in our nursing homes skyrocketed," said Wilson.

AARP is also relying on the White House to roll out an aggressive booster shot plan for nursing home staff and residents, just as they did last year when the first vaccines became available.

New infections among residents and staff in nursing home facilities is also on the rise. Cases among residents soared from 0.3 per 100 residents over a four-week span ending Aug. 22 to 0.9 per 100, data shows. That's a total of 162 cases.

During that same time period, positive COVID-19 infections among nursing home staff jumped from 1.5 per 100 residents to 2.5 per 100.

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