St. Louis County sees surge in coronavirus cases in nursing homes

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St. Louis County nursing homes reported an increase in coronavirus cases among residents of long-term care facilities, with 968 in January, up from 262 cases the previous month.

The St. Louis County Public Health Department’s COVID-19 Long-Term Care Report also recorded 22 COVID-related deaths in nursing homes in December and 22 in January.

As of last week, 8,283 residents of long-term care facilities in St. Louis County have tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,304 have died. Residents of long-term care facilities account for 41% of COVID-19 deaths.

County health officials say the spike in coronavirus cases in nursing homes is due to the fast-spreading omicron variant. Even though many people who live in such facilities have received the COVID-19 vaccine, the latest figures show they are vulnerable, said Ethan Wankum, epidemiologist for the department.

“We have in our long-term care population a fairly highly vaccinated group of people,” Wankum said. “Yet we’re still seeing a very large number of cases over the last couple of months, most of the cases we’ve seen in the past year, so I think that really shows how contagious this particular variant is.

The January figures follow previous highs of more than 1,200 monthly coronavirus cases in county nursing homes at the end of 2020.

Health experts say the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters are key to stopping the virus from spreading. Nursing homes were among the first facilities to receive the vaccine in late 2020. Since then, approximately 87% of nursing home residents in Missouri have received two doses of the vaccine and approximately 63% have received one injection. reminder.

Wankum said the increase in coronavirus cases does not indicate decreasing vaccine protection against severe illness or death, but it is another sign of omicron variant contagion.

According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, 473 people in St. Louis area hospitals were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday, up from 1,400 hospitalized patients last month.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rolled back visitation restrictions late last year for facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid. The new guidelines allowed residents of nursing homes to receive visitors again, but also exposed them to additional risks.

It’s critical that people protect themselves and the older people they come into contact with, said Jenelle Leighton, the health department‘s clinical quality administrator.

“With the transmissibility of omicron, I want to reinforce the importance of vaccination and being up to date on your vaccinations, which includes getting your booster dose,” Leighton said. “National data shows that being up to date with your vaccine gives you the best outcome for minimizing serious illness and hospitalizations.”

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