New cases of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities have dropped 96% nationwide since Dec. 20. In Idaho, long-term care centers have seen a similar drop since residents were among the first priority groups to be eligible for the vaccine late last year.
At the time, Idaho's care centers were averaging 321 new cases and about 22 fatalities each week. In early March, the two-week average of new cases in care facilities had fallen to about 70, and in the two-week period ending March 26, the average is near 40.
“We should be reading into this that this is additional evidence of how effective these vaccines are,” said Idaho Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. David Pate. He appears weekly on Idaho Matters.
The CDC reports around 78% of care facility residents nationally got their first jabs in December and January.
Idaho Health and Welfare says tracking how many care center residents here are vaccinated is hard because of patchwork distribution between state and federal vaccine sources.
Spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr explained that Idaho does not track how many shots were administered in long-term care centers, and does not track the overall population in those buildings, so there is no way for DHW to track uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.
The statistics are better, but Idaho isn’t out of the woods yet. Care centers remain the highest risk for severe or fatal COVID-19, and on average, four residents still die each week in Idaho.
Local doctors do say it's safe to move a loved one into a long term care center — if they are fully vaccinated and two weeks past the final shot.
The vaccines, said Dr. Laura McGeorge, Medical Director for Primary and Specialty Care at St. Luke’s hopsitals, “are highly effective in preventing any COVID symptoms, but extremely effective in preventing death or hospitalization. That, in the elderly, is what we care about.”
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