HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — As the Delta COVID-19 variant continues to sweep through the nation, more than half of North Alabama's nursing homes' percentage of vaccinated healthcare personnel are below the national average.
WZDX News used the most recent data, which was submitted on July 25, from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to compare vaccination rates among nursing home staff members across North Alabama.
The staff of these nursing homes is tasked with taking care of some of our most vulnerable populations. There are 42 nursing home facilities across the 10 north most counties in Alabama. Of those 42 facilities, 27 facilities have a lower percentage of vaccinated health care personnel than the national average of 59.3%.
Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) says the department cannot mandate that people get the vaccine, but private entities and businesses can.
"I would encourage people to go back to our roots as caregivers, as health care providers," Dr. Landers said. "I mean, why did we go into this? And why are we continuing to do this? And what is our responsibility to our patients to keep them safe and keep them healthy, and again, not expose them to a communicable disease."
There is only one county that has an average rate of vaccinated healthcare personnel above the national average. Franklin County has a rate of 60.3% of nursing home staff that have received the vaccine. The following counties have a rate below the national average:
- Lauderdale - 57.3%
- Colbert - 56.6%
- Madison - 56.2%
- Morgan - 53.4%
- DeKalb - 53.2%
- Marshall - 51.4%
- Limestone - 48.1%
- Jackson - 44.6%
- Lawrence - 43.8% (Only one facility)
Some North Alabama nursing home facilities have staff vaccination rates below 35%. The following facilities have the lowest rates of staff vaccination of all facilities in North Alabama:
- Cumberland Health and Rehab in Bridgeport - 29.0%
- South Hampton Nursing and Rehab in Owens Crossing - 33.9%
- Diversacare of Arab - 34.6%
When asked if she would feel comfortable knowing a loved one was in a nursing home facility with a staff vaccination rate of 29%, Dr. Landers had the following to say: "As a physician myself and having previously been a caregiver to an elderly parent in my home, I know that we have to do all we can to cocoon and protect our elderly."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some North Alabama nursing home facilities have staff vaccination rates above 70%. The following facilities have the highest rates of staff vaccination in North Alabama:
- El Reposo Nursing Facility in Florence - 78.6%
- Fairview at Redstone Village in Huntsville - 75.2%
- Cypress Cove Care Center in Muscle Shoals - 70.7%
As of August 11, all 67 Alabama counties are at a high level of community COVID transmission, according to ADPH's COVID tracking dashboard. This means there are more than 100 new cases over the prior seven days in every county in the state. The COVID positivity rate in Alabama is at 24.1% as of August 11.