To ensure that as many people as possible choose to get vaccinated, the U.S. government has made the COVID-19 vaccine available to anyone over the age of 15 for free. Despite these measures, many Americans have chosen not to vaccinate against the virus. The rate of vaccinated individuals who work in nursing homes is worryingly low, placing vulnerable elderly populations at risk. If your loved one is in the care of nursing home staff, it is important to be aware of the impact of COVID on nursing homes and what the vaccination rates are among nursing home staff, as well as the dangers this situation presents to your elderly relative.
Impact of COVID-19 on Nursing Homes
COVID-19 has severely impacted nursing homes in the last year and a half. Current numbers estimate that since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been over 135,000 deaths of nursing home residents and staff. Devastating instances of abandonment occurred, where a few staff members remained to care for residents who had been left behind, which led to unintentional neglect and abuse due to inadequate care.
In addition, many nursing home residents withered away under mandatory quarantine orders that kept them from receiving outside visitors. As many as 40,000 elder deaths may have occurred due to a condition called “failure to thrive,” which is brought on by prolonged isolation and mental despair.
Current Vaccination Rates
With a vaccine on the horizon, many hoped that the dire conditions in nursing homes around the country would improve. While there has been a decrease in reported COVID deaths since the release of the vaccine and a high number of residents getting vaccinated, there is still a long way to go until ideal safety conditions exist.
Currently, only 59.3% of nursing home staff nationally are vaccinated, as opposed to 81.8% of residents. The staff has reported refusing vaccination due to fears about side effects, safety, and effectiveness. There is also a logistical challenge of making the vaccine available to every nursing home staff, especially in rural areas.
Dangers of Unvaccinated Staff
With so many nursing home staff unvaccinated, there remains a constant risk to elderly residents’ health and well-being. The most alarming threats are breakthrough infections, continued staff shortages, and death to both residents and staff.
Breakthrough infections occur when new COVID cases appear in already vaccinated populations. The Delta variant of COVID is highly contagious, and as it infects unvaccinated people, it raises the risk that those who are already vaccinated can become infected because the viral load is too high. In essence, unvaccinated staff who become infected and carry the virus into their place of employment bring danger to the residents who have taken steps to protect their health.
Even before the pandemic, nursing homes and their residents suffered from staff shortages that prevented adequate care. With staff members choosing not to be vaccinated and getting sick, there is an even higher shortage of available nursing home employees. When a staff member is diagnosed with COVID, they must stay home for a minimum of two weeks, which leaves the nursing home scrambling to find a replacement.
This has a domino effect on nursing home staff. As more workers are being asked to work longer hours and fill in for those who are unable to work, they are finding different jobs, contributing to neglect and abuse due to staff shortages.
When to Seek Legal Action
Considering the far-reaching consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to know what rights you and your elderly loved one are entitled to when living in a nursing home. If you are concerned about staff treatment toward a nursing home resident, contact a Montgomery nursing home lawyer to find out if you can take legal action against the nursing home for failing to provide adequate care.