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How Arkansas nursing homes have changed one year after COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Our elderly population was the hardest hit at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, their survival rate has risen dramatically thanks to the vaccine.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — The beginning of the pandemic hit our most vulnerable population hardest -- our elderly and nursing home residents.

It's been a year since the vaccine has been available to them, and it's been a complete turnaround for their survival rate against COVID-19.

Rachel Bunch, Arkansas Health Care Association Executive Director said after residents were able to get the vaccine, nursing homes were starting to get back to normal.

"We've opened up for visitation. Started communal dining, started activities, church services, and other social type gatherings," said Bunch.

The Arkansas Department of Health said that our most vaccinated age group consists of Arkansans that are 65 and older, with 43 percent being fully vaccinated and boosted. 

This has proven to be the best barrier of protection for those in nursing homes.

Out of the 18,000 residents in long term facilities, less than 1 percent have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks. 

"We have 329 residents that have tested positive for COVID in the last 14 days and 940 workers who have tested positive," said Bunch.

With omicron surging in Arkansas currently, nursing homes are seeing more positive cases, but with the added protection of the vaccine visitation will stay in-person with certain precautions in place.

Nursing homes are screening people when they walk in, including asking about symptoms.

Bunch said one of their biggest concerns right now is worker shortage. She's working with local universities to recruit more students into the healthcare field to help fill the need.


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