The effort to vaccinate some of the country’s most vulnerable residents against Covid-19 has been slowed by a federal program that sends retail pharmacists into nursing homes — accompanied by layers of bureaucracy and logistical snafus.
2021 is beginning a lot like how 2020 ended. Across the country, there is a steady increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. But there is another population that continues to show a record number of new cases: people who live in nursing homes.
A recent report by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), representing more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country, showed nursing homes in the U.S. saw a continued record of new cases. This surpassed previous peaks since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) started tracking nursing home cases.
Specifically, the Midwest region saw a 275 percent increase in weekly Covid-19 cases in nursing homes between September and November 2020 due to the community spread among the general population.
From Michigan’s biggest cities to its far rural areas, the state’s most vulnerable populations in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are finally starting to get COVID-19 vaccines — with officials hoping to see declines in the number of cases and deaths soon after both doses of the vaccines are administered to residents and staff.
For many, that day can’t come fast enough.
It brings the hope of hugging a parent, spouse, daughter, son or grandchild. It brings the anticipation of simply touching and holding a friend’s hand.
Long-term care options for older adults are more varied than ever. But deciding which option is best for yourself or a loved one can be complicated.
A good place to begin is by deciding what level of care is right for your circumstances.
In this article, we’ll help shed light on the differences between nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and how to decide which one is the right choice.
What are the key differences between assisted living and nursing homes?
Assisted living is primarily a residential environment, while nursing homes — also called skilled nursing facilities — are considered medical environments.
A nurse at the suburban Seattle nursing home that was ravaged by the first U.S. cluster of coronavirus cases sat down beside a visiting pharmacist on Monday, pulled up her blue shirtsleeve and received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine administered at the facility.
It was the beginning of what residents, families and employees hope will be a turning point in a pandemic that has killed tens of thousands of people in long-term care facilities. Vaccination teams from Walgreens and CVS were fanning out to facilities across the country on Monday, the start of a long, difficult campaign to vaccinate some of the country’s most vulnerable people.
At the facility near Seattle, the Life Care Center of Kirkland, which is connected with 46 coronavirus deaths, relatives of residents got a text message on Monday morning alerting them that vaccinations were beginning.
Maria Cortez waited in line early Thursday morning in the chilly air outside The Tamalpais senior living center in Greenbrae to become one of the first nursing home workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in Marin.
Cortez, who is a nursing assistant at the center, has spent the past nine months wearing safety gear at work, getting frequent coronavirus tests and limiting her exposure to others. But despite all the precautions, she worries constantly about catching the virus and passing it on to the patients she works with, or to her three children at home.
“It’s really stressful,” she said. “I was so excited to get the vaccine.”
For nursing homes across the country, the coronavirus pandemic has been especially marked by isolation, illness and loss. On Friday, CVS Health and Walgreens are beginning to offer Covid-19 vaccinations for residents and staff at those long-term care facilities, making them among the first Americans to receive the shots.
Walgreens said its pharmacists will administer the shots at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Ohio, Connecticut and Florida. CVS said it will provide them at facilities in Ohio and Connecticut.
The vast majority of nursing homes in the United States won’t start vaccinating staff and residents against COVID-19 until Dec. 21, and some won’t start until Dec. 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Monday’s rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine brought confusion nationwide as it became clear most long-term care facilities and nursing homes were not taking part in the initial immunizations, despite the CDC’s decision last week to include residents in the first phase of distribution.
That’s because the majority of long-term care facilities opted to take part in a federal program that uses pharmacy chains, including CVS, Walgreens and others, to facilitate vaccination of staff and residents.
CVS Health Chief Executive Larry Merlo said the company is ready to administer “vaccines into the arms of some of our most vulnerable populations” within 24 to 48 hours upon receiving its share of Covid-19 vaccines.
“We’re ready to go. We’re in great shape and as I mentioned, people are excited to be an important part of this solution,” Merlo said Thursday in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
In the before-times, Peter Karris visited his mother Margaret several times a week, sometimes even more.
He would keep her company, feed her meals and support other residents in the nursing home where she lives. Once, he collected dolls to give each resident; other times he’d paint with them and sell their work to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Then COVID-19 came.
First, the nursing home where she lives, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation in Queens, New York, closed to all visitors. Then, the virus swept through.
Dozens of residents caught it, including Margaret. Her roommate didn’t make it, nor did a number of others on their floor. By the end of the spring surge, 81 Parker residents had died.
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