Wisconsin nursing homes see 97-percent decrease in COVID-19 cases since late December

NOW: Wisconsin nursing homes see 97-percent decrease in COVID-19 cases since late December

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Three months ago, U.S. nursing homes experienced tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day, but that number is now in the hundreds. The dramatic dip in cases is thanks to high vaccination rates. 

“That light at the end of the COVID tunnel gets brighter and brighter every day and we’ve just got to stick with it,” said Rick Abrams, president and CEO, Wisconsin Health Care Association and Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living.

Data from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living show there’s been a 96-percent decrease in COVID-19 cases since the vaccine rollout in late December. On December 20, 2020 there were 33,540 COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S., and as of March 7, 2021 1,349 cases were reported. 

Abrams says Wisconsin nursing homes have seen an even bigger decrease, at 97-percent. Abrams says he knew this would happen as soon as shots went into the arms of people living in nursing homes.

“As the infection rates come down, as vaccines go up—that means people can begin to visit their loved ones,” adds Abrams.

“Obviously very good news for a population that was really hit hard in the early days of COVID,” said Dr. William Hartman, principal investigator for the UW Health AstraZeneca clinical trial.

Abrams says it’ll help with quality of life for nursing home residents once more visitation opens up, adding data doesn’t lie.

“You’re far better off getting the vaccine than getting COVID-19, I can assure you,” he said.

Nationally, nursing homes have also seen a 91-percent decrease in deaths. From 6,037 deaths December 20, 2020 to 547 deaths March 7, 2021.

The significant decreases in deaths and cases for nursing homes comes at a time when Pfizer announced their vaccine immunity lasts at least six months, and shared it’s 100-percent effective in fighting B.1.351, a variant originating in South Africa. 

“The longer immunity, the better, and you know that’s one of the many unanswered questions,” Abrams says.

“Most important takeaway there is we have a chance to vaccinate our way out of this pandemic,” said Dr. Hartman.

Dr. Hartman says Pfizer study participants will be watched for two years and it may make a difference in the need for boosters.

“We know that we’re good at six months, we don’t need a booster in that time, we’ll see where we’re at a year and then at two years,” he adds.

“We need to listen to the science, we need to listen to the evidence, and that will direct our future conduct,” says Abrams.

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