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Arizona among the worst in the nation for COVID-19 vaccinations in nursing home staff

New data from the government showed, on average, 54% of healthcare workers at Arizona nursing homes are fully vaccinated. Arizona is among the worst in the nation.

ARIZONA, USA — Only 54% of healthcare workers in nursing homes around Arizona are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the latest available data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Out of 142 nursing homes that report vaccination numbers to the federal government in the Grand Canyon state, 60 facilities have fewer than 50% fully immunized staff. Just 12% have three quarters or more of their team vaccinated.

“It’s a great concern for us,” said Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, an organization that advocates for nursing home residents. “I think it’s very frightening for families especially, to think that so many nursing homes staff remain unvaccinated this far into the pandemic.”

Since COVID-19 has been most deadly in nursing homes, where elderly residents live in congregated areas, easily susceptible to the spread of the virus, it’s a cause for concern that the people that work on a day-to-day basis with them have not received their shot, according to Lee.

Haven Health Group, one of the largest nursing home care providers in the state, which has 17 reporting facilities, had the worst rates for vaccinated staff—with five of its centers taking up the bottom spots.

Haven of Globe hit the lowest rank in Arizona, with only 14% immunized health care workers.

10 nursing home facilities have less than 30% fully vaccinated staff

PROVIDER NAME                                                          % OF HEALTHCARE PERSONNEL FULLY VACCINATED

Haven of Globe                                                                           14%

Haven of Show Low                                                                    14%

Sapphire Estates Rehab Center, LLC                                         20%

Haven of Safford                                                                         20%

Haven of Sandpointe, LLC                                                          23%

Haven of Lake Havasu                                                                25%

Sun West Choice Healthcare & Rehab                                       27%

Oasis Pavilion Nursing & Rehabilitation Center                          27%

Granite Creek Health & Rehabilitation Center                            27%

Allegiant Healthcare of Phoenix, LLC                                        29%

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone”

Mark Daugherty dedicated his entire life serving others as a certified nursing assistant, before dying from COVID-19 on June 19, 2020.

The 60-year-old Casa Grande resident loved playing instruments and singing for his nursing home residents at Oasis Pavilion Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where he last worked.

“He was always full of life,” Stacey Daugherty said about her father. “I think he pretty much worked in every hospital in Arizona, and he would always play one of his instruments to make his residents smile.”

Daugherty is unsure when exactly her father got COVID-19, but in April she said he began experiencing flu-like-symptoms—chills, fever, lethargy and headaches. But he opted to take medications.

A couple of days later, while he was on his way to work, Daugherty said her father stopped at her house and asker her to take him to the hospital where she said he was told he had bronchitis and early pneumonia but tested negative for COVID-19.

 A week later, she had to rush him again to the emergency room, this time his condition was worse, and he tested positive for coronavirus.

“His lung collapsed then they intubated him. He started doing okay, but his body started shutting down, and we finally got the dreaded call that he kept crashing,” Stacy Daugherty said. “The damage was already done so we had to make the decision to take him off life support.”

The father of five and grandfather of 15 had more left to do, his daughter said. He volunteered at his church New Beginnings where he sang southern gospel.

Before becoming ill, Daugherty said her father had gotten ordained to be a pastor to preach and start an outreach for the elderly. She said he also did puppets for kids.

“My dad, even while suffering and gasping for air, still worried he passed it to me and my kids,” Stacy Daugherty said. “He was around me and my kids so none of us got it, and so don’t know how he got it other than over at where he worked at Oasis.”

Mark Daugherty is one of 11 health care workers from Arizona’s nursing homes to contract COVID-19 and die from the deadly virus.

His employer, Oasis Pavilion, reported just 27% of its staff was fully vaccinated as of August 1.

In a statement sent to 12 News, Oasis Pavilion's administrators said they strongly encourage staff to get vaccinated but don't demand employees to show proof of vaccination. 

"We strive to keep our patients and staff healthy," Oasis wrote. "Our management team educates the staff on the importance of Covid vaccination."

The nursing home said it tests Oasis employees on a weekly basis for COVID-19 and requires them to wear masks when they're interacting with residents. 

"We have many measures put in place to prevent Covid 19 spread and because of these measures we have been Covid free since February of this year," Oasis added.

Arizona ranks third worst for vaccinating nursing home residents

Arizona nursing homes report 1,210 residents have died from coronavirus—6,832 residents and 6,041 health care workers have tested positive statewide, CMS data shows.  

On average, Arizona had 71% of residents fully immunized, making it the third-worst state for vaccinating nursing home residents.

Out of the 15,283 facilities nationwide that report data to the federal government, only 36 have fully vaccinated staff and residents.

“These nursing homes are like breeding grounds for the virus, it gets in there and it bounces around like a pin pong ball,” Lee said.

On Wednesday, the Biden Administration announced it will require nursing home staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for those facilities to continue receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding.

“What you don’t want to do is alienate the workforce, you don’t want to put, literally, a gun to the head of the nursing homes to do something they don’t want to do because it could potentially back fire on them as well,” said Lee.

To increase participation among health care staff, Lee suggested the FDA should lift the Emergency Use Authorization label and make COVID-19 doses fully authorized, instead of forcing mandates.

“[My father and I] were talking about [getting a dose] before he got sick,” Stacy Daugherty said. “We talked about how horrible the numbers were climbing and that for there to be a state of emergency it was important for everyone to get the vaccine if it became available.”

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