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COVID cases, death forces at nursing homes in Georgia in February



Many experts point to vaccinations as the biggest driver of the improvements. This is the view of AG Rhodes’ nursing home, which at the end of December was among the first in the state to start receiving the vaccine.

“We are extremely optimistic about the vaccination effort,” Cateau said. “You can not deny the connection.”

ExploreComplete coverage of COVID-19 in Georgia

But other factors also help reduce infections. Among them, as the increase in cases after the holidays became smaller, the state as a whole saw fewer cases. This makes it less likely that workers will unknowingly bring the virus into the facilities. However, the number of cases fell faster among residents in long-term care homes than in the state in general. They have fallen by about 74% among long-term care residents in Georgia compared to about 59% for the state according to state data.

Another factor is that the virus has run so wildly in senior care centers since the onset of the pandemic that survivors of the disease are likely to remain protected by infection-served antibodies, said Ben Lopman, a professor of epidemiology. at Emory University.

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How care facilities handle the pandemic is also greatly improved, as the first major U.S. outbreak at a nursing home in Washington in February 2020 resulted in dozens of deaths, said Dr. Ted Johnson, President of Family and Preventive Medicine at Emory University.

State and federal governments supplemented supplies of personal protective equipment. What̵

7;s more, virtual training, like Zoom classes, Johnson teaches in partnership with Georgia State University for staff at 180 nursing homes across the state, helped facilities improve screening, infection control and treatment plans.

03/04/2021 —Jackson, GA - Johnny Simmons, a patient at Westbury Medical Care and Rehab, attends an external visit to his mother and sisters at the Jackson Medical Center, Thursday, March 4, 2021. Visits are outside and patients are on one side of a clear curtain while their family and friends visit from the opposite side.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

03/04/2021 —Jackson, GA – Johnny Simmons, a patient at Westbury Medical Care and Rehab, attends an external visit to his mother and sisters at the Jackson Medical Center, Thursday, March 4, 2021. Visits are outside and patients are on one side of a clear curtain while their family and friends visit from the opposite side. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Still, there were senior care centers in Georgia that reported an increase in infections in February, state data shows. Some were facilities that admit COVID-positive residents from hospitals, said a representative of PruittHealth, one of Georgia’s largest nursing home providers.

By and large, however, it appears that the number of new cases is tied up when vaccinations are rolled out. Data nationally Show the nursing homes that got their shots so their cases fall first, Johnson said.

“We are extremely optimistic about the vaccination effort. You can not deny the connection. “

Deke Cateau, CEO of AG Rhodes

Nursing homes were the first priority for vaccines, and before January 25, the first round of vaccinations was completed in the homes of anyone who wanted to be inoculated. Vaccines later rolled out to nursing homes and personal care homes, some of which are still awaiting the first shots in February.

As more residents get the booster shot and have more time to build immunity, many expect the trend line to only get better.

“We see vaccinations pay off tremendously and do exactly what we had hoped for,” said Ginny Helms, president and CEO of LeadingAge Georgia, which represents nonprofits and mission-driven senior organizations. “This will give the residents their lives back.”

Concerns are still woven

The sudden drop in cases in Georgia reflects a national trend of sharp falls in cases. The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, which represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country, just released a report showing new COVID-19 cases in nursing homes fell by 82 percent since the end of December.

Nevertheless, challenges remain to ensure that the COVID-19 image continues to improve.

Lopman said a concerted effort is needed to convince workers at long-term care facilities to get shots.

While an estimated 80% of long-term care home residents in Georgia have received the COVID-19 vaccine, only about 40% of staff have been vaccinated, according to Tony Marshall, President and CEO of the Georgia Health Care Association and the Georgia Center for Assisted Living.

At some facilities, the staff rate is even lower, he said.

Industry leaders have set an ambitious goal of getting 75% of staff vaccinated by June 30, Marshall said. Providers hold more information sessions about the vaccine and offer other perks like more PTO days for those being vaccinated.

    Westbury Medical Care and Rehab staff, left to right, Jennifer Vasil, Octeria Odom, Tiffany Covington and Laura Barber make up outside the facility in Jackson.  Barber is the assistant director of nursing and infection control of the medical facility and helped get COVID-19 spread in the facility under control.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Westbury Medical Care and Rehab staff, left to right, Jennifer Vasil, Octeria Odom, Tiffany Covington and Laura Barber make up outside the facility in Jackson. Barber is the assistant director of nursing and infection control of the medical facility and helped get COVID-19 spread in the facility under control. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Although this effort is successful, care centers will need to be mindful because of how vulnerable their residents are. The population in them is also transient. New residents often move in, and staff turnover can be frequent.

Now that the national pharmacy vaccination clinics for long-term care facilities are being closed down, it will be up to nursing homes to either let their staff administer the vaccine or to find providers who can often return to vaccinate new residents, just as they do now with flu vaccines.

“It’s going to be a difficult thing to do,” said Amber Schmidtke, a public health researcher and former professor at Mercer University who tracks Georgia’s epidemic on her widely read blog.

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Another concern is that the number of new cases in general in Georgia has leveled off since mid-February, with the seven-day rolling average of new confirmed and suspected cases remaining at around 3,000 per year. Day.

Nationwide, cases have begun to rise in some states, and the rolling average has flattened nationally amid warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that new, more contagious coronavirus trains are taking over.

It is likely that new booster shots will need to be developed to adjust when the virus replicates and changes its own defenses, experts say.

‘Weight has been lifted’

Haunted by the harsh toll of the pandemic, long-term care facilities in Georgia recognize that it is too early for anyone to fail their guard. But administrators say that in light of the significant cases and deaths, they will ever move so gently to ease restrictions, to enable visits and more joint activities, such as group training programs and cooking classes.

“I would not go so far as to say that the nightmare is over, but I feel much better and I feel a lot of relief,” said Cateau from AG Rhodes. “But we can not take the foot off the pedal when it comes to vaccination and safety measures – social distancing, masking and infection control. We want this trend to continue and not just for a short period of time. ”

Gwen Hardy, executive director of Presbyterian Homes of Georgia, which includes six older living communities, including independent apartments, said isolation has been as much of a challenge for senior facilities as the virus.

“When it comes to visits, our cognitively impaired residents do not understand why their family does not visit them, and this brings further confusion. And for those who are attentive and oriented, they have a grief over them, and even though the staff do everything they can to fill the gaps, there is still a void when the family can not be present … It has been heartbreaking for our staff and heartbreaking for our residents in this time of isolation. ”

Albert Masliaa, a resident of The William Breman Jewish Home, is looking forward to seeing his family face to face soon.

Albert Masliaa, a resident of The William Breman Jewish Home, is looking forward to seeing his family face to face soon. “We make conference calls, but it’s not the same,” he said. “I can not smell anything. I can not see the lines on their faces. Let’s just say it’s not that hot. It’s making me crazy. ”(Contribution)

Meanwhile, Albert Maslia, a resident of The William Breman Jewish Home, told him getting the COVID-19 vaccine “means freedom.” The 90-year-old has not left the building since moving in last August. His wife, Isabelle, lives on the same campus in an independent living community, separated by a breezeway. It has been a long, difficult eight months.

He often connects with his wife and children by phone or tablet, especially for Friday night Sabbath meals that include challah, a traditional Jewish bread and wine, both blessed before the meal begins.

“We make conference calls, but it’s not the same. I can not smell anything. I can not see the lines in their faces. Let’s just say it’s not that hot. It’s driving me crazy. ”

But during a recent phone call, Maslia said he hopes to see his family face to face soon.

“That’s what keeps me going,” he said.

Harley Tabak, president and CEO of Jewish HomeLife, which includes The William Breman Jewish Home, shares Maslia’s optimism.

“We feel like we are in a new day,” Tabak said. “As for the vaccine, a real weight has been lifted and we have not felt that way for more than a year.”

The current number of active COVID-19 cases in The William Breman Jewish Home: zero.




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