Florida leads nation in nursing home resident and staff COVID-19 deaths

The state accounts for over 20 percent of new nursing home resident deaths.
Florida had the most nursing home deaths in a monthlong period ending on Aug. 22.
Florida had the most nursing home deaths in a monthlong period ending on Aug. 22. [ Dreamstime/TNS ]
Published Sept. 15, 2021

More nursing home residents and staff died of COVID-19 in Florida during a four-week period ending Aug. 22 than in any other state in the country, according to an AARP analysis released today.

Florida accounted for 21 percent of all nursing home resident deaths due to the virus nationwide. The data shows the state with 17 percent of staff deaths nationally during this time.

“These sadly predictable data trends are also preventable,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida state director, in a press release. “The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated.”

The elder advocacy organization used most recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data, which is self-reported by nursing homes nationwide.

A total of 237 seniors and 13 staff in the state died during this period.

The delta variant surge has once again spotlighted Florida’s nursing homes, which were hit particularly hard in the early days of the pandemic. A third of the state’s deaths overall have been among people living in long-term care facilities.

Florida currently ranks second worst for staff vaccinations, lagging behind all other states except Louisiana. A little less than half — 48 percent — of Florida nursing home staffers have been vaccinated.

The state leads the nation in new COVID-19 cases among staff, with 94 percent of nursing homes reporting staff infections during the monthlong period.

Staff vaccine rates have improved by three percentage points within the last four weeks of data, however.

Related: Will vaccine mandates help or hurt nursing home staffing in Tampa Bay?

Florida long-term care facilities are working to incentivize employee shots ahead of a Biden administration rule that will require nursing homes to mandate staff vaccinations, which is expected to be released later this month.

“The hesitancy that you see among our staff is no different than the hesitancy you see out in the community,” Kristen Knapp, communications director for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents more than 80 percent of Florida nursing homes, previously told the Times. “We are doing things every day to try to encourage our staff to get vaccinated — we’ve done social media campaigns, put out PSAs posters, given financial incentives. This is not for a lack of trying.”

It’s hard to assess the current toll of the virus on people living and working inside long-term care facilities, as Florida stopped sharing this data with the public in May.

Federal data used in the AARP report lags by about two weeks, and does not include information about the situation inside Florida’s assisted living facilities, which are not required to report to the national government.

About 22 percent of nursing homes are experiencing staffing shortages, according to Medicaid and Medicare data, up from 18 percent in the previous monthlong period.

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