March 2 report revealed nursing homes in the US have seen the lowest number of new COVID-19 cases since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) started tracking back in May 2020, according to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL). The organizations say the data suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are working.

Recent CMS data shows that nursing homes have seen an 82% decline in new COVID cases among residents since the peak during the week of December 20 of last year when there were more than 30,000 new resident cases. In the same period of time, community cases in the general population dropped by 46%, showcasing that vaccines are having an impact in protecting the elderly population in nursing homes.

“We still have a long road ahead, but these numbers are incredibly encouraging and a major morale booster for frontline caregivers who have been working tirelessly every day for a year to protect our residents,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “This new data showcases just how important it is for nursing homes residents and staff, as well as the general public, to get the vaccine because it is clearly working.”

The report also shows cases have dropped to the lowest level since CMS started tracking weekly COVID cases in nursing homes last May. Along with the lowest number of new COVID cases, new data also shows COVID related deaths in nursing homes declined by 63% since December 20, 2020.

“Though this report brings hope, we cannot let our guard down. We must continue to encourage folks to get vaccinated, especially caregivers and staff,” added Parkinson. “Public health officials must also continue to ensure that long term care residents and staff remain the highest priority for accessing the vaccine, as the on-site clinics with CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacy partners are coming to a close.

“Most importantly, we call on the Administration to review its current guidance to nursing homes on restricting visitors and group activities,” concluded Parkinson. “With millions of residents and caregivers now fully protected thanks to the vaccines, residents must be able to safely reengage in meaningful activities and be reunited with their loved ones.”