By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming has the country’s highest rate of coronavirus-related nursing home deaths, according to a recent report released by AARP Wyoming.
Wyoming’s COVID nursing home death rate is currently 0.2 per 100 residents, ahead of Kansas (0.19) and Arkansas (0.18). All three are above the national average of 0.03 deaths per 100 residents.
Wyoming’s high ranking is the result of a spate of deaths that occurred during a four-week period ending on July 18 and its low population of nursing home residents relative to the rest of the country, according to AARP.
Nationally, COVID-19 cases continue to rise among nursing home residents and staff, increasing 50% among residents and 60% among staff over the week of July 12.
“The increases are concerning given the rise of new variants, the gaps in vaccinations among those in nursing homes, and the disproportionate numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 and high risk in these facilities throughout the pandemic,” AARP Wyoming State Director Sam Shumway said.
“More than 186,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19 – representing around 30% of deaths, even though less than 1% of the population lives in these facilities,” he said.
Wyoming’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among nursing home staff actually declined in the four-week period ending July 18, falling from 1.3 per 100 residents to 1 confirmed case per 100 residents. However, that also remains well above the national average of 0.3%.
Wyoming is also above the national average for nursing homes reporting staffing shortages. Just over 37% of Wyoming nursing homes reported staffing shortages of direct care workers in Wyoming over the four-week period ending July 18, while nationally, 23.7% of nursing homes reported shortages.
Wyoming’s percentage of COVID-19 vaccination rates among nursing home staff also remains below the national average at 51%, compared to the national average of 60%, ranging from a low of 44% in Louisiana to a high of 87% in Hawaii.
However, the number of COVID cases among nursing home residents actually declined over the four-week period ending July 18, falling from 1.1 resident cases per 100 residents to just 0.3 per 100 residents (or six total cases inside the state’s nursing homes).
That ratio has Wyoming ranked 10th in the nation for the lowest percentage of confirmed COVID-19 cases per nursing home resident over the last four weeks.
Wyoming’s nursing homes also reported no urgent need for personal protective equipment, making Wyoming one of only six states to report no facilities with an urgent need for PPE.
More than 88% of Wyoming’s nursing home residents are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, placing Wyoming inside the top 15 in the nation. Vermont’s nursing homes boast a 95% vaccination rate among residents, while Arizona has the nation’s lowest rate at 64%.