(The Center Square) – Only Louisiana ranks lower than Florida in COVID-19 vaccination rates among nursing home workers with less than 42% of staff caring for more than 160,000 Floridians in more 700 nursing homes and assisted living facilities fully vaccinated against the disease.
According to data released Monday by AARP Nursing home COVID-19 dashboard, only 41.8% of state nursing home staff had been vaccinated as of July 20, and more than 30% of the state’s 71,000 elderly nursing home residents were unvaccinated.
“Florida continues to lag significantly behind the nation in the percentage of fully immunized healthcare workers in our nursing homes,” said Jeff Johnson, director of AARP Florida State. “Florida now represents one in five new US cases of COVID. With cases increasing again across the country and given the highly contagious delta variant, every effort must be made to protect vulnerable nursing home residents. “
Reported infections declined in Florida nursing homes during the spring through June 20. Since then, 26% have reported at least one new case among workers and 11% have reported a new infection among residents – both double the national average and an increase in tandem with a peak in Florida cases, according to AARP.
According to the latest Florida Department of Health COVID-19 update, published on July 16 and covering the week of July 9 to 15, there were 45,604 new cases reported with an 11.5% positivity rate – more than double the 5% positivity rate as the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) in the United States deems it necessary to control the spread.
This number of reported cases almost doubles the 23,000 new cases reported the previous week. About 3,200 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in the state, according to the DOH, a 73% increase since June 14.
The numbers sound the alarm bells as only 10.3 million of the state’s 22 million people over the age of 2 – 47.8% – are fully immunized. The number of vaccinations administered per week has declined by nearly 80% statewide since April.
The Florida Health Care Association has pledged to redouble its efforts to convince healthcare workers of “the importance of getting vaccinated.”
Families for Better Care Executive Director Brian Less calls on Governor Ron DeSantis to restart statewide reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths among residents and long-term care staff that the DOH hasn’t done since June 4, when it went from daily to weekly coronavirus updates.
At a press conference Monday, Florida DeSantis said the July peak in cases was expected as the virus follows a seasonal pattern, ensured state hospitals were not stressed – and stressed the importance to get vaccinated.
DeSantis said nearly 85% of Florida seniors in the state have been vaccinated and questioned the AARP’s claim that 30% of senior nursing home residents were unvaccinated.
The governor attributed some reluctance to media references to “revolutionary infections” among those vaccinated.
“If you’re vaccinated the number of people who end up being hospitalized is almost zero, it’s unbelievably, unbelievably low, so I think there’s some misinformation where someone will say, ‘Oh, these people have. been vaccinated and then they tested positive, “” he said. “Understand, a positive test is not a clinical diagnosis of disease and so if you get vaccinated and you test positive but don’t get sick, well the name of the game is to keep people out. hospital .”
“We have three vaccines available,” DeSantis concluded. “Anyone – any adult – can get it from pharmacies.”