The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) released a statement on Thursday in response to a September update from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) COVID-19 Dashboard, which documents case, vaccination, and death rates in Florida’s nursing homes. FHCA represents approximately 700 long-term care facilities across Florida.
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According to the dashboard, COVID case rates among both nursing home residents and staff significantly increased within the last month. As of Aug. 22, 2021, 6.1% of nursing home staff had COVID, up from 1% on July 18, 2021. The case rate among nursing home residents increased from 0.7% on July 18 to 5.3% on Aug. 22.
Florida continues to have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, according to the dashboard. As of Sept. 15, 48.5% of nursing home staff was fully vaccinated (only above Louisiana). More residents were vaccinated (73.5%), but still puts Florida near the bottom of the list, above only Arizona (73.5%) and Nevada (71.2%).
FHCA criticized AARP’s assessment, saying the group has “no direct involvement in the day-to-day operations of a nursing center.”
“Perhaps instead of producing alarmist reports and reaching conclusions, they should try offering real-world solutions, such as initiatives that will help increase vaccination rates in our communities and encourage individuals to seek a career in long term care to help address our workforce shortages.”
FHCA detailed its efforts to mitigate infection spread within its facilities, including wearing masks, regular testing and temperature checks, and offering incentives for those who get vaccinated. FHCA did not explicitly say it would enforce vaccine mandates for staff, despite supporting President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate for all Medicare and Medicaid-certified health care settings.
AARP, which has local offices in each state, as well as Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, has a five-point plan “to protect nursing home and long-term care facility residents—and save lives—at the federal and state levels” listed on the dashboard under “AARP is Fighting to Protect Nursing Home Residents.” On Aug. 12, AARP released a statement calling for nursing homes to mandate vaccines.