Wyoming nursing homes successfully ended the year with one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country. In fact, the state has the fifth-lowest amount of cases nationally. However, Wyoming’s ongoing problems retaining staff is now the worst in the country.
Low COVID-19 vaccine and booster rates among Wyoming nursing home staff have led to the nation’s highest shortage of nurses and/or aides, with 73.5% of facilities reporting a shortage, according to the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 dashboard released last week.
While nursing home resident cases have consistently dropped from November through December, the percentage of nursing home facilities with a staff shortage has spiked from 59 percent in November to 73.5 percent in mid-December.
Wyoming’s percentage of nursing home residents who are fully vaccinated with a booster shot ranks 14th nationally at 63 percent. However, the state’s percentage of nursing home staff who have received a booster remains low as just 17.8 percent of Wyoming’s health care staff are classified as fully vaccinated with a booster.
On the flip side, Wyoming’s nursing home COVID-19 resident cases were among the lowest in the nation for the four-week period ending Dec. 19 of last year. A rate of .33 percent who tested positive was lower than all states other than Hawaii, Florida, Alaska, and Louisiana.
Wyoming’s percentage of nursing home deaths per 100 residents attributed to COVID-19 was just .11 percent for the four-week period ending Dec. 19. Hawaii and the District of Columbia reported no nursing home resident deaths due to COVID over that same time period, according to AARP.
AARP reports more than 90 percent of Wyoming’s nursing home residents are fully vaccinated.
It was just after this four-week period that the Omicron variant was seen in nursing homes. The last few weeks of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) numbers are showing a rapid surge in cases, according to the most recent data collected by the CDC.
The first evidence of the Omicron surge in the nursing home data was the week ending Dec. 26, 2021. One week later, there were 42,000 new staff cases, more than any previous week of the pandemic.
National nursing home resident cases show the same pattern. Approximately 80,000 new resident cases were reported across the two most recent weeks ending Jan. 16, 2022. These are the two weeks with the most cases of the entire pandemic, surpassing the previous high during last winter’s peak, in which over 40,000 residents died in just two months.
“There are now more COVID-19 cases in nursing homes than ever before, and deaths are rising as well,” said AARP Wyoming State Director Sam Shumway.
The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.