Feds Press Nursing Home COVID Boosters As Staff Rise In Cases | Economic news

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By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal health officials on Thursday pressured nursing home workers to receive their booster shots amid a spike in COVID-19 cases among staff and a worrying delay in the booster vaccination for residents and staff.

The omicron variant “is lightning fast, and we can’t afford another wave of COVID-19 in nursing homes,” Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra said in a broadcast appeal direct to industry. “You know that. I know that. A higher number of COVID cases would likely again have a devastating impact on our loved ones.”

Nursing homes are a testing ground for President Joe Biden’s claim that the United States is much better prepared to deal with a burgeoning virus than it was last winter. Although residents represent only a tiny proportion of the population, they represent a disproportionate share of Americans who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this year, the advent of vaccines brought the virus under control in nursing homes and reopened them to visitors. But that return to normal could be threatened as the omicron variant pushes COVID-19 cases to new heights.

Cases among nursing home staff jumped to 10,353 the week ending Dec. 27, an increase of almost 80% from the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of staff fatalities rose to 58, tripling from the previous week. Among residents, who are more heavily vaccinated, cases have increased slightly and data has shown no increase in deaths.

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With medical experts advising that a booster is essential in defending against omicron, Becerra said only 57% of nursing home residents and 25% of staff have received recalls. This is clearly behind a recall rate of almost 66% among people 65 and older and around 45% for the adult population, according to White House statistics.

“We have to change that,” Becerra said.

The administration is urging some 1,400 federally-funded community health centers across the country to partner with local nursing homes in a renewed vaccination campaign.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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