Florida nursing home workers lag in COVID-19 vaccinations

As COVID-19 cases increase again in Florida, 42% of the state’s nursing-home workers had been fully vaccinated as of last month, a new report by AARP shows.

The 42% vaccination rate placed Florida second from last in the percentage of nursing-home workers vaccinated as of June 20 and well behind the national average of 56%, the report by the senior advocacy group said. Hawaii had the highest rate in the four-week period leading up to June 20, with nearly 84 percent of nursing-home staff fully vaccinated.

Just 5% of Florida nursing homes had staff vaccination rates of 75% or higher as of last month, according to the report. Nationally, 20% of nursing homes had staff vaccination rates of 75% or higher.

"It’s troubling news that Florida continues to lag significantly behind the nation in the percent of fully vaccinated health care workers in our nursing homes," AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said in a prepared statement.

With 68.1% of nursing home residents fully vaccinated as of June 20, Florida also lagged behind the national average of 78.3 percent. Only Nevada and Arizona had lower rates of vaccinated residents at 75.8% and 63.3%, respectively. 

COVID-19 infection rates at Florida facilities also outpaced the national average. According to the AARP report, 26% of Florida nursing homes reported new staff cases of COVID-19 in the four weeks leading up to June 20, which was twice the national average of 13%.

The AARP report is based on self-reported industry data that is published by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The AARP Public Policy Institute worked with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio to create a dashboard that tracks data over four-week increments.

The dashboard only contains information about nursing homes because they are the only long-term care facilities required to report the data. It does not contain information about the 3,139 assisted living facilities licensed in Florida.

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The AARP report comes as the Delta variant has fueled concerns in Florida and other states about increasing COVID-19 cases.

Florida last week accounted for one in five new COVID-19 cases nationally, according to the federal government.

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A report released Friday by the Florida Department of Health showed that the state had 45,604 new COVID-19 cases and 59 deaths in a week-long period that ended Thursday. The report also showed that the COVID-19 positivity rate had surged from 7.8% to 11.5%.

On Monday,  Gov. Ron DeSantis downplayed the increased COVID-19 rates and said federal officials should show a little "humility" for people who don’t want to get vaccinated and not criticize them.

"I do not agree with some of these people, some of these experts who lambaste people and criticize them or say they are stupid," DeSantis said during a news conference at a Central Florida wilderness preserve. "That’s not the way to reach folks."