COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio’s hospitals are under siege with COVID-19 cases and now the state’s nursing homes are beginning to look the same.
“The latest surge is the highest reported since February of this year,” said Holly Holtzen, state director of AARP Ohio.
Holtzen said that in the past month, nursing homes have experienced 10 times the number of COVID-19 cases among residents and double the number of deaths.
According to Ohio’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Dashboard, nearly 82 percent of Ohio nursing home residents were reported as fully vaccinated, while 54 percent of staff were reported fully vaccinated.
“Compared to the previous four weeks, the vaccination rates among residents and staff increased slightly, but remained well below what is needed to protect residents’ health,” Holtzen said.
This is why the AARP is pushing for vaccine mandates among nursing home staff, a move echoed by President Joe Biden.
Local health officials worry this may cause workers to push back.
“We’re very concerned about the impact of the mandate on staff and who is going to take care of our residents,” said Peter Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association.
Van Runkle believes the pressure of a vaccine mandate could cause staff who are vaccine-hesitant to quit.
A lack of staffing is an issue that both Van Runkle and Holtzen said they’ve been struggling with for a while.
“You see that throughout society, any place you go, they’re looking for staff, but in long term care, it’s places where people live,” Van Runkle said.
“Well before the pandemic, labor shortages were a chronic issue in nursing homes because of relatively low pay, difficult working conditions, limited benefits,” Holtzen said.
The AARP has reported less than a 2 percent increase in staff shortages since last month. At least one-third of facilities in Ohio are reporting they still do not have enough workers.