MADISON, Wisconsin - Wisconsin is seeing similar COVID-19 patterns in long-term care facilities compared to the fall of last year. Advocates for the state's older residents say vaccinations and booster shots can make a difference this time around.
AARP's latest COVID Dashboard report for Wisconsin shows an upward trend in cases among nursing-home residents in recent weeks, with 20 deaths in the latest four-week period. Deaths resulting from COVID double the previous four weeks.
AARP Wisconsin's State Director Sam Wilson described a sense of frustration, with some facilities still lagging in getting staff members vaccinated. He said one hopeful note is that most residents have received their shots.
"We hope that the vaccinations that have occurred over the last year will help stem the wave of deaths that we saw last winter," said Wilson.
He said not only will it help to get more staff members vaccinated, but being diligent with booster shots for vulnerable populations should ensure fewer deaths.
The group is asking state leaders and community partners to move as quickly with booster shots as they did when vaccinations first came onboard.
The latest dashboard also shows Wisconsin nursing homes continue to struggle with staffing shortages, with nearly 30% of facilities not having enough nurses or aides. Wilson said policymakers need to ensure residents have consistent care moving forward.
"Whether it's a pandemic or even a lesser challenge that may happen in our workforce," said Wilson, "or even with a really strong flu season that may occur."
He said the budget reconciliation bill being debated by Congress would help in this area.
A key provision calls on the Secretary of Health and Human Services to study staffing shortages and establish a minimum staffing ratio. The bill has encountered roadblocks, though, amid charges from some lawmakers that it's too costly.
Supporters note the $3.5 trillion price tag is spread out over a decade.
Source: Wisconsin News Connection