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Kansas City-area health care officials concerned with impact of omicron cases on nursing homes

Virus Outbreak Nursing Home Vaccines
Posted at 7:28 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-06 00:23:33-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Nursing care facilities in the Kansas City area are concerned with the rise in new COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Jessica Kalender-Rich, with the University of Kansas Health System, says targeted assistance to nursing homes no longer exists like it used to.

“Right now, the hardest thing to get ahold of is testing, and then I think we’ll see with staffing," Kalender-Rich said. "I mean, those are the big things and those are the things that we would have to go to the state for."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80% of residents in long-term care facilities are vaccinated in Kansas.

But doctors are citing recent studies saying immunity fades quicker in older populations.

“Their immune system changes in such a way that its harder to fight infections and it’s harder to recover from the secondary effects of that infection,” Kalender-Rich said. “‘I already was having a little trouble walking and now, I’ve laid in bed for three days with a cold or COVID or whatever, and now I have to make up for all that functional loss’.”

Due to the vulnerability of those 65 and older, local healthcare leaders are now pushing for boosters.

Despite over an 80% vaccination rate, only 62% of residents in Kansas long-term care facilities have gotten the extra shot.

Anthony Columbatto with John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit says he saw the positive effects firsthand.

“The big difference that we have between then and now, is that our residents have been vaccinated and the vast majority of them boosted," Columbatto said. "And so we can see in real time, how effective these vaccines and booster shots are from protecting them from the virus."

More members of Columbatto’s staff are calling out from work due to infection or quarantine requirements. Of about 700 employees business-wide, 21 employees are currently out.

He says in order for nursing home infrastructures to stay afloat, it will take all members of the public to be vaccinated, boosted and masked up.

“If it’s 10 times more transmissible, even if it's half as severe, that’s still five times more people that can potentially need hospital care," Columbatto said.

Doctors are worried about the outlook of the next four to six weeks following the holidays. Another big concern is to make sure nursing home residents remain connected to the public.

“Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recently came out with new guidance in November that says that we may not, nursing facilities cannot restrict visitors," Kalender-Rich said. "They have to let visitors in. And this is very intentional to help the mental health of those older adults in nursing homes."