Public Health: Vaccines prevented deaths in nursing facilities

Coronavirus. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control

By Signal Staff 

With high COVID-19 vaccination and booster rates, skilled nursing facility residents experienced a peak death rate that was more than five times lower through this winter surge as compared to the previous winter’s surge, according to a statement issued Friday by the L.A. County Public Health Department. 

Also Friday, Public Health reported 85 new deaths and 15,427 new positive cases of COVID-19, although 6,800 of those were attributed to a reporting delay by a single lab. And, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital reported three new COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths at the hospital to 214 since the onset of the pandemic. 

HMNH reported 43 patients remained hospitalized with COVID-19 and, to date, 2,085 patients have been treated and discharged. 

County officials on Friday attributed declining death rates at skilled nursing facilities to the effectiveness of vaccinations. 

The latest Public Health data shows that the seven-day average death rate of skilled nursing facility residents declined from 106 residents per 100,000 during the peak of the 2020-21 winter surge to 21 residents per 100,000 during the more recent Omicron peak — an 80% reduction, despite the fact that the peak seven-day average of new infections caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant this surge was 15% higher than the peak infection rate during the previous winter surge. 

“High levels of vaccination and booster coverage within skilled nursing facilities helped provide life-saving protection,” Public Health officials said in a prepared statement.  

For the week ending Jan. 23, 91% of residents and 97% of staff were reported as fully vaccinated, and 85% of residents and 75% of staff were reported as both fully vaccinated and boosted among those eligible. Since the announcement of the health care worker booster requirement in late December, the number of skilled nursing facility staff boosted has increased by almost 50%.  

“This essential layer of better coverage and protection with a booster dose has resulted in far better outcomes this surge as compared to the previous winter,” the Public Health statement said. 

The Public Health statement added that newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control showed that individuals who were both fully vaccinated and boosted had a 97 times lower death rate (0.1 individuals per 100,000) compared to individuals who were unvaccinated (9.7 individuals per 100,000). 

“However, if we want to continue to bring our cases, hospitalizations, and deaths closer to pre-surge levels, we’ll need to continue the common-sense protective measures that we know can slow COVID-19 transmission,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “These include wearing a mask when around others until transmission is lower; testing, if possible, before gathering with others, especially if you’re gathering with people at high risk (including unvaccinated) or indoors or in a crowded outdoor place where masks are not always worn, and after being exposed to a positive case; staying home and away from others if you are sick or test positive; and getting vaccinated and boosted if you’re not already up to date.”  

Of the 85 new deaths reported Friday, one person was between the ages of 18-29, two people were between the ages of 30-49, 17 were between the ages of 50-64, 27 were between the ages of 65-79, and 31 were age 80 years or older. Of the 85 newly reported deaths, 67 had underlying health conditions. To date, the total number of deaths in L.A. County is 29,280. 

Public Health has reported a total of 2,710,362 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County. As of Friday, there were 3,233 people with COVID-19 hospitalized countywide. Testing results are available for more than 11,148,900 individuals, with 22% of people testing positive. 

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