Less than a hundred people working and living in several nursing homes under the auspices of the Good Samaritan Society, a non-profit chain that operates in 24 U.S. states, have tested positive for COVID-19, four months after tedious efforts that saw the chain’s facilities cleared of contamination which went as high as 900.
According to Randy Bury, chief executive of the Good Samaritan Society, two have already died last week due to COVID-19 and less than a hundred residents and staff — including those who have been fully vaccinated — have contracted the deadly virus at the Good Samaritan Society-Deuel County nursing home in Clear Lake, South Dakota.
No details were provided as to which among the non-profit’s long list of nursing homes sprawling in two dozen states were affected by the contamination.
From how the company sees the predicament, the sudden surge of infections in their nursing homes appear to have been triggered when their unvaccinated personnel went hopping from one facility to another testing persons who might have contracted the virus from the community.
“We fought this virus, and we were winning with the vaccine. After the vaccine rollout in December, he said, adding that there was a “precipitous drop in cases among residents and staff — an absolutely straight-line decline.”
Interestingly, the Good Samaritan Society was recognized for its policy compelling mandatory vaccines among its personnel as one giant step designed to avoid a repeat of the predicament that swept through the highly vulnerable population.
Web sources showed that some 133,000 nursing home residents have died of COVID since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its death toll, however, significantly dropped in the last few months following massive vaccination efforts.
Oddly though, deaths among nursing home residents and staff members seemed too big as data hinted at figures showing COVID-related morbidity in nursing homes accounted for 35 percent of the nation’s pandemic death toll.
Notwithstanding the mounting number of infections, there were still a handful of nursing homes who have opposed the idea of mandatory vaccination policy citing heavy losses and huge operational cost that they have been shelling out since the onset of the pandemic.
It is for this reason that only 60% — or even lower in some other states — of nursing home staff members are vaccinated.
Admittedly, staff immunization has been a major concern in many states even in the wake of a far more infectious COVID-19 mutated strain referred to by experts as Delta variant.
In view of the heightened health risks, several states and cities have imposed their own mandates for vaccinations on long-term care employees. The mandate provides penalties for defiance. Massachusetts for one has required that all nursing home staff be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, while California imposed a measure requiring weekly COVID-19 tests for healthcare workers.
Recognizing the health risks, both San Francisco and Denver have imposed a vaccine mandate for workers in high-risk settings, including nursing homes.
The new spike of COVID-19 infections also compelled nursing homes in Florida, Colorado, Indiana and Louisiana to limit visitors again and impose other restrictions, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed they’re keeping an eye over the delta variant’s infections in nursing homes to see if “additional measures are needed.”
Relatedly, Dr. Michael Wasserman, a geriatrician and former president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, sees it in another perspective.
“The bottom line is, the vaccine is the No. 1, 2 and 3 thing we have to fight this pandemic, everywhere, but especially in nursing homes,” said Dr. Wasserman.
To date, the nursing home industry has ceased endorsing a vaccination mandate, in contrast to calls of major medical organizations, including hospitals pushing for the requirement among healthcare workers and personnel.
The American Health Care Association, for its part, would rather support efforts to educate workers.
No less than AHCA chief executive Mark Parkinsaon said: “It’s terribly frustrating. If everybody would get vaccinated, this pandemic would end.”
He went further by saying that nursing home providers seemed too worried over the mandates on a perception that such would decimate what is already a lean workforce in their industry.
For Good Samaritan chief executive Bury, the delta variant gave him “tremendous concern” and added he supported widespread mandates.
“If you’re a facility that mandates the vaccine, within a short time of the mandate, you’ll be the safest workplace for employees and the safest place to be a resident,” he said.
“And it’s so much the right thing to do,” he added. “It feels like we’re going back into a clinical crisis, and we should not sit by without taking some action to prevent it.”