The Omicron variant is running rampant in long-term care facilities where inhabitants are extremely vulnerable.
As of Feb. 18, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported that there are currently 11,874 active cases of COVID-19 across Oklahoma, based on data from Feb. 6 to 12. This is a 45.6 percent decrease from the week before (Jan. 30 to Feb. 5). The 7-day rolling average for the number of new cases reported is 1,128. There were a total of 39 deaths during the week from Feb. 5 to Feb. 12. The cumulative number of cases in Oklahoma is 1,009,129.
Nursing homes across Oklahoma have been seriously affected by COVID-19, especially with the contagious Omicron variant. The OSDH reported the first case of the Omicron variant on Dec. 21 and a COVID-19 surge on Jan. 20. Long-term care facilities are at higher risk of an outbreak.
As stated by the CDC, “the Omicron variant spreads more easily than the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Delta variant.” The symptoms are similar to other variants, but the risk of severe illness is lower than other variants. However, the CDC cautions that “some people may still have severe disease, need hospitalization and could die from the infection with this variant.” Hospitals across the country can still become overwhelmed with increased cases of COVID-19, so wearing masks and getting tested if you feel sick is still advised.
The nature of the Omicron variant has caused the CDC to update guidelines for long-term care facilities as of Feb. 2. The CDC states that “older adults living in congregate settings are at high risk of being affected by respiratory and other pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2.”
Long-term care facilities have been instructed to take measures to protect staff and residents from contracting COVID-19. Such guidelines include physical distancing, making alcohol-based hand sanitizer widely available and providing training for staff as well as information on how to reduce the risk of spreading the virus for visitors.
Among Oklahoma long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, there were 229 new cases among residents and 15 deaths last week. Among staff, there were 195 new cases and zero deaths reported.
The overall number of cases in Tulsa county has increased throughout January, but began to decrease as of Feb. 1 according to data from the Tulsa Health Department. The cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths in Tulsa county is at 1,948 as of Feb. 15. Nationwide, there have been 78,039,888 cases.
COVID-19 outbreaks put extra strain on long-term care facilities, which have already been impacted by labor shortages. The CDC reported in US long-term care facilities, the number of COVID-19 cases as of Feb. 6 were estimated to be 21,799. This is a decline from the previous week, when the number of cases was estimated to be 33,884 (as of Jan. 30) but still higher than numbers reported for Dec. 2021, when the number of reported cases in long-term care facilities were between 4,000 to 6,000.
Long-term care facilities encourage visitors and staff to take steps to prevent spreading COVID-19 to residents and other staff. The CDC states that “remaining up to date with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses is critical to protect both staff and residents.”