Florida nursing homes are again tightening visitor restrictions and group activities because of an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The nursing home restrictions in the Sunshine State, as well as in other COVID hotspots, are a setback after a vaccination campaign and falling cases had families hoping the worst was over.
“Every day I have to explain to my mom why she can’t leave her room, why nobody is visiting her, why she can’t visit her friend across the hall. There is no light at the end of the tunnel right now,” Mary Ellen Dayan-Varnum told the Journal about her mother, Jody Dayan, 85, who lives at a home in Blountstown, Fla.
Most visitation is canceled, and group activities like bingo, movies and communal dining have been suspended, leaving residents largely confined to their rooms, the Journal said of the facility.
Senior facilities in other states with COVID surges — like Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — have also had to bring back some visitation limits, the Journal reported.
While more than 82% of U.S. nursing-home residents were vaccinated by Aug. 1, the rate was 60% for nursing-home workers, the Journal reported, citing federal data.
According to the news outlet, nationwide reports from nursing homes show about 4,900 new resident cases over the four weeks that ended Aug. 1, up from 1,570 in the prior four weeks Staff cases have also more than tripled to 8,300 in the same period, the data show, the news outlet reported.
In Florida, the most recent week’s resident and staff cases — 568 and 727, respectively — are at the highest levels since January, the Journal cited data showing. Deaths also appear to be on the rise, with 78 among Florida nursing-home residents in the last two weeks, eclipsing the total from the prior 14 weeks.
Some states like Massachusetts and California recently announced vaccine mandates covering nursing home workers. Florida, which has lower-than-average staff vaccination rates, hasn’t done the same, but some private operators are, including the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, a part of Sanford Health and a major nonprofit nursing-home operator covering 22 states, the Journal reported.
“We’re not going to go backward,” Nathan Schema, vice president of operations at Good Samaritan, told the news outlet. “We have an answer, and that answer is to mandate the vaccine.”
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