Alabama nursing homes express concern for their communities
By WVUA 23 News Reporter Joseph King
Concerns for the elderly and nursing home residents have grown amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the Delta variant.
The Alabama Nursing Home Association’s Director of Communications John Matson said they are aware of the rise of COVID-19 numbers and are continuing to practice safety protocols.
“Throughout this whole pandemic, we have seen that if there is an outbreak of COVID in the community, then there will usually be an outbreak in that community’s nursing home within one or three weeks,” Matson said. “We are very concerned. We’re on heightened awareness, we’re making sure we’re practicing all of our infection control procedures.”
Contrary to the overall low vaccination numbers in Alabama, Matson said that the state of Alabama is currently ahead of 17 states regarding nursing home residents’ vaccinations.
“Certainly, we would like to be number one when it comes to resident and employee vaccinations, but we are making progress every week when the federal government releases new numbers on vaccinations. We continue to climb up,” he said.
Matson mentioned that nursing home employees knew how tough this pandemic would be and have gained knowledge on how to better care for residents.
“Every nursing home around the state is doing its best to rally its staff,” he said. “We have some protection now because we have the vaccine, so it’s a little different perspective than what we went into March of 2020, when we really didn’t know what was about to happen or what we could do to prevent it.”
There are currently 230 nursing homes in Alabama, with at least one in every county.
Matson mentioned that nursing homes are the only health care providers that the government requires to report the COVID-19 vaccination status of its residents and staff.
“They report that to the federal government every week and the federal government makes that available. Nursing homes are very transparent as we’ve been throughout the pandemic,” he said. “You can know if there are cases in your local nursing home, you can know the vaccination rates and status of your local nursing homes. No other health care provider has that.”
Matson said Alabama nursing homes are still practicing the visitation guidelines the government issued in April 2021.