COVID-19 hits Missouri nursing homes again; staff hard hit

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 8:44 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 11:07 AM CST
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — COVID-19 infections are rising in Missouri nursing homes and crippling schools as the highly contagious omicron variant surges.

New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows cases among nursing home staff ballooned to 1,261, up from a peak of 981 last fall. But the 895 cases among residents is below the peak, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

While 87% of Missouri nursing homes residents are vaccinated, just two-thirds of nursing home staff are — lower than any other state.

Vaccinated residents are faring relatively well, overall, during this wave, even when breakthrough cases occur, said Dr. Charles Crecelius, medical director for two area nursing homes and an elder care specialist for BJC Medical Group.

“They’re definitely not as sick,” Crecelius said.

Nursing homes have contended with staffing shortages throughout the pandemic, but the latest surge has sent yet-unseen numbers of health care workers home due to illness or exposure.

Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a south St. Louis County nonprofit that advocates for nursing home residents, said the group has been fielding more complaints about issues such as unanswered call lights.

“If there’s not enough people to work in the facility, quite honestly, there’s not enough people to take care of all of the residents,” Moore said. “That’s really scary.”

Amid the surge, the Columbia school district decided to reinstitute a mask requirement starting Tuesday, the Columbia Daily-Tribune reported. Students have been demanding a mask mandate, with Hickman High School students walking out this week.

The district also has been struggling with staff absences, forcing the district to “be creative,” said spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark.

“This means employees from other schools, from administration, from other departments are stepping in to assist when there is a shortage or vacancies that are unfilled,” she said.

South Callaway R-II School district canceled classes Friday, and Boonville R-1 School District is using a snow day to close schools Tuesday.

Boonville Superintendent Sarah Marriott said the district needs the day to “regroup” because of absences and winter weather, KOMU-TV reported.

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