Over the last few months, nearly 90 percent of COVID-19 deaths nationwide have occurred among individuals aged 65 and older, with 70 percent occurring among those 75 and older. Each week, around 2,000 seniors are dying from COVID-19. Through widely available vaccines, treatments, tests, and prevention strategies, long-term care providers can reduce serious illness; prevent hospitalizations and deaths; and minimize disruptions for their facilities.
Responding to these challenges, the White House announced a Winter Preparedness plan to expand access to testing, vaccines, and treatments. To support it, a Winter Playbook was also released for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, where 1 in 5 recent COVID deaths have occurred.
The playbook outlines actions facilities can take to encourage vaccine uptake, testing, treatment, and improve indoor air quality:
- Help residents and staff access updated COVID-19 vaccines. While offering vaccines and education to residents and staff is a requirement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS), just 42 percent of nursing home residents and 10 percent of nursing home staff had gotten an updated COVID-19 vaccine as of December 4, 2022.
- Ensure that residents and staff are testing if they are symptomatic, and know how to access COVID-19 treatment options (such as oral antiviral pills) if they test positive. Recent data shows the highest utilization rates of COVID-19 treatments are in long-term care facilities, but there are still many eligible residents not receiving these potentially life-saving treatments. Residents must be made aware of the effectiveness of COVID-19 treatments and have easy access to these lifesaving treatments.
- Improve indoor air quality across facilities. Taking steps to improve air quality inside nursing homes and other congregate settings can reduce the spread of COVID-19, the flu, and other respiratory illnesses, in addition to offering other health benefits.
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