Unvaccinated Nursing Home Worker Set Off a COVID Outbreak Among the Residents

Julie Mazziotta
·2 min read

Getty Nursing home

A COVID-19 outbreak at a Kentucky nursing home was traced back to one unvaccinated staff member, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control, highlighting the importance of vaccinations.

In March, 26 residents at the nursing home and 20 staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The majority of residents — 75 out of 83 total — were already fully vaccinated against the virus, while just 52.6% staff members — or 61 out of 116 — had elected to get vaccinated.

Most of the people who were vaccinated and still tested positive for COVID-19 did not have any symptoms or require hospitalization, the CDC said, though one resident who had previously contracted COVID-19 and had been vaccinated died.

The outbreak, though, hit the unvaccinated people the hardest. Eight of the residents who contracted COVID-19 had not been vaccinated, and two died. And of the 20 staff members who tested positive, 16 had not been vaccinated. The outbreak originated with one of those unvaccinated staff members, the CDC said.

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The study "underscores the importance" of vaccination against COVID-19, the study authors wrote.

"To protect skilled nursing facility residents, it is imperative that health care providers, as well as skilled nursing facility residents, be vaccinated."

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They also highlighted the problem of vaccine hesitancy among health care workers.

"Low acceptance of vaccination among [nursing home staff] might increase the likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 introduction and transmission within a facility," they said. "Compared with unvaccinated persons, vaccinated persons had reduced risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection and symptomatic COVID-19. A continued emphasis on vaccination of skilled nursing facility populations, including health care providers, is essential to reduce the risk for SARS-CoV-2 introduction, transmission, and severe outcomes in skilled nursing facilities."

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The CDC also released a second study on COVID-19 cases in Chicago-area nursing homes, and found that of the 627 people who contracted the virus across 75 nursing homes in February, just 22 cases were in people who were already fully vaccinated, and the majority were asymptomatic.

As of April 22, more than half of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and a third are fully vaccinated. Additionally, more than 80% of people over age 65 have gotten at least one dose and 65.6% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.