Nursing homes house some of the state’s most vulnerable people. COVID-19 continues to be an ongoing threat.
Nationally, only a little more than half of nursing home workers are vaccinated. Florida is the second worst state for that metric, according to the AARP.
“These are the folks who work with the most vulnerable population. Even if the residents are vaccinated, they’re most at risk to have bad outcomes if a breakthrough case happens in their facility,” said Jeff Johnson, the Florida director for the AARP.
More than a year into the pandemic, Johnson is still concerned about the vaccination rates.
“Even though the vaccines were brought to the facilities at the beginning of the year, so they were first in line,” said Johnson, “It just strikes me as irresponsible and really dangerous to have nursing home staff who aren’t getting the vaccine and it appears administrations at some facilities are not promoting vaccines.”
Florida does not require workers in long-term care facilities to be vaccinated. The state government rolled back some of the information it previously published beginning in June when COVID numbers were decreasing.
The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) do require nursing homes in Florida to report staff and resident vaccination rates. There are around 700 nursing homes in the state. Assisted Living Facilities are strictly regulated by the state, which does not require that reporting publicly.
The AARP analyzed the federal data and reported in late July only about four of ten nursing home workers were vaccinated. This comes after the state prioritized getting the vaccines into long-term care facilities when they became available.
The latest CMS numbers were reported on July 25 and updated on August 5 so the numbers will have slightly increased in the last week as Floridians get the vaccine. CMS publishes vaccine rates for staff and residents here.
There are wide differences between each facility.
According to the data, the 86-bed Aventura Rehab and Nursing Center reported only around 13% of its staff as vaccinated. NBC 6 reached out to understand why and has not yet heard back.
The 109-bed Nspire Lauderhill only reported 12% of its staff as vaccinated, per the data. The facility administrator told NBC 6 by phone they were working to get that number up and encouraging staff to get vaccinated. NBC 6 emailed specific questions, including if they were going to require vaccination going forward, and has not yet received a response.
Other facilities like the John Knox Village in Pompano Beach and the Vi at Aventura have more than 90% of their staff vaccinated.
“With this new thing now, this Delta, it gives us more of an alarm to be more precautious,” said Joan Phillips, a certified nursing assistant at a long-term care facility.
Phillips didn’t want to identify which facility she works in but she is a member of the 1199 SEIU health care worker union. In her case, she says she works at a facility that requires vaccinations and even asks workers to get a COVID nasal swab test each week. She says she feels safe going to work even with her facility open to visitors who may not be vaccinated.
“We pushed for everyone to take the vaccination, wear our masks, and wash our hands and stuff like that. So when we do things like this we protect our residents and per se, now that the families are coming in, it’s safe for them,” said Phillips.
The major industry group for long-term care centers in Florida, the Florida Health Care Association earlier strongly encouraged staff to get vaccinated, and a spokesperson said they will support facilities who want to require vaccinations for staff.
Around a third of COVID-19 deaths are linked to long-term care facilities nationwide.