FLORIDA – As the number of COVIDs in Florida hits record levels never seen before during the pandemic, there is a potential focus of the epidemic made even more vulnerable by low vaccination rates: nursing homes.
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At the start of the pandemic, the virus devastated these places of life. This is why they were one of the first places to receive the vaccine.
But now, as case rates climb even more than before, Action News Jax investigator Emily Turner has found vaccination rates for local nursing home staff to be among the lowest in the country. .
Nursing homes are now required to report vaccinations for both residents, so Action News Jax pulled data from the nursing home‘s COVID-19 public file. It includes data reported by the nursing homes themselves.
One of those nursing homes is the Isla Health and Rehabilitation Center, where Roy Lane was stuck outside trying to enter and see his father. He was in tears. âThey say it’s because of the Covid lockdown,â he says, âand it’s the COVID lockdown since May 2. “
It’s a story that the Florida AARP tells is all too common in the nursing home community.
Family members are locked out due to COVID protocols while staff, more than half of whom are unvaccinated, have access and provide care.
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Jeff Johnson, the state director of AARP, said: âWe’ve heard some frustration that ‘look, we’ve done the right thing, we’ve been vaccinated’. We have done everything we can to stay safe, but the people who work in the facility are not held to the same standard and they have access to our loved ones. “
At 42%, Florida has the second-lowest rate of nursing home health workers vaccinated in the country, compared to a national average of 56%.
But digging deeper into the numbers, Action News Jax found that rates are even lower in half of the nursing homes in the northeastern Florida and southeastern Georgia area. This, according to AARP’s Johnson, is a potentially lethal data point. âAs our communities see the upsurge in cases over the past two weeks,â Johnson told Action News, âunfortunately, I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing cases again among residents of nursing homes “.
There are 75 nursing homes in our area, so Action News visited those with the highest and lowest vaccination rates.
It wasn’t a popular topic among those at the bottom of the list, the lowest of which is Governor’s Creek Health and Rehabilitation in Green Cove Springs. There, only 6.25% of its staff are immune.
Investigative reporter Emily Turner was greeted in the parking lot by a staff member: “Is your executive director available?” she asked.
âUm, no, it doesn’t,â the employee said, even though the woman wore a name badge around her neck with the title of âCEOâ.
When Turner asked the woman why the immunization rates were so low, she was told, âI can’t. I don’t know and I can’t talk about it. I am sorry.
“Don’t you know why they’re so low?” Turner asked. âI can’t talk about it. I am sorry. I was ordered not to talk about it, âthe woman said.
The second lowest vaccination rate is at the Orange Park Health Consulate, where 9.9% of its staff are fully vaccinated.
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Turner spoke to a staff member at the front desk, âWe’re doing a story about vaccination rates among nursing home staff and this nursing home has less than ten percent of employees vaccinated. Are you vaccinated? â
The woman replied âNoâ and when Turner asked why she said, âThat’s my personal opinion. “
The Orange Park health care consulate has recorded 15 confirmed cases and one death linked to COVID. The executive director was not there either.
It was a similar story across the river at the facility with the third lowest rate. Only 15.85% of the staff at the San Jose Health and Rehabilitation Center are vaccinated.
The households with the three lowest vaccination rates all have something in common beyond their vaccination metric: their owner.
Action News Jax discovered that the Orlando-area-based Consulate Health Care has them all. Action News contacted their head office for answers, but never got a response.
The Bayview Nursing Home in Nahunta and the Isle Health and Rehabilitation Center in Flemming Island round out the five lowest vaccination rates at around 16% each.
When given this information and asked if it would make a difference to him if more healthcare workers were vaccinated, Roy Lane choked: âI don’t know what to say,â says- he, “I’m pretty sure. Why not ?. Its common sense.
So why are numbers important?
Dr Michelle Aquino, osteopath and internist at Baptist Health, says a lack of vaccinations among people living and working nearby creates an environment for the virus to spread, especially amid a resurgence of cases like the one currently underway. ‘State. .
His immunity, she said, will stop him. âWe need to protect our patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities,â she says, âbecause again, these people are, for the most part, immunosuppressed and we need to protect them. And one of the best ways to do that is to immunize healthcare workers, all of us. “
The figures confirm it. Mauri Mizrahi, CEO of River Garden Senior Services, says: âThe vaccine is a game changer. It’s an absolute game changer.
River Garden has the highest vaccination rate among its staff.
Mizrahi says that after immunizing more than 80% of its staff and 95% of its residents, rates of COVID cases have plummeted. She says they haven’t had a positive test result for months.
âWe had written documents. We had public meetings for our staff where they could ask questions, âshe said of their pressure to get people vaccinated,â we had videos made. We did a whole promotional campaign for the vaccine.
But, she says, she stopped before making the vaccine mandatory.
While the healthcare industry can legally require its workers to get vaccinated, Florida’s AARP says it doesn’t know of a single facility that does.
That was until last week when the Veterans Administration put this mandate in place.
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When it comes to managing staff immunizations, Mizrahi says, âIt’s a tightrope. It is a tightrope walk. It’s so delicate, she says, “because you need people to take care of the residents,” and she can’t risk losing staff who refuse the shot.
Once the vaccine is approved by the Federal Drug Administration, and not just in an emergency, she says they’ll need it and hopes workers don’t leave for a facility that doesn’t.
In the meantime, places like Governors Creek and San Jose Health and Rehabilitation risk not only low vaccination rates among their staff, but also among residents. Only 41% and 36% of residents, respectively, were vaccinated.
Figures like that, according to the AARP, open the door to an outbreak, regardless of visitor policies like the one Roy says to keep him out.
The document below provides staff immunization rates for all local nursing homes or assisted living facilities:
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