Deaths from COVID-19 among nursing home workers neared an all time high last week, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. 

The report, citing recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 67 COVID-related deaths occurred among nursing home staff in the week ending Jan. 9. The all-time high of 69 was set in July 2020, six months before vaccines became available.

Overall, nursing homes throughout the country have experienced an alarming spike in new COVID cases in recent weeks due to community spread among the general population. Last week, 32,061 nursing home residents tested positive for COVID-19 – nearly doubling the previous week’s numbers. Staff case counts hit their highest ever last week, reaching 57,253 – more than double the previous staff case count record, set in December of 2020.

“As soon as news of Omicron broke in December, we were very concerned this variant would lead to a surge of cases in the U.S. and therefore, an increase in cases in nursing homes and unfortunately it has,” said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA/NCAL.

Experts have repeatedly noted that COVID-19 cases in a surrounding community is a key indicator of outbreaks in nursing homes. 

“We cannot weather this storm alone,” said David Gifford, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer for AHCA/NCAL. “We’re extremely concerned how this surge will impact our already dire labor crisis as caregivers must isolate if they test positive. Staffing shortages impact access to care for our vulnerable residents and impede our ability to help overwhelmed hospitals.” 

The nursing home workforce is already experiencing a historic workforce shortage, with 234,000 fewer caregivers than when the pandemic began—a 15% reduction. 

One bright spot in the report: While COVID-related deaths among nursing home residents have increased in recent weeks, the rate of deaths is 10 times less compared to December 2020 due to high vaccination and improving booster rates among residents. 

“Fortunately, the vaccines appear to be working against omicron, but we must remain vigilant and steadfast on vaccinating and boosting as many residents and staff members as quickly as possible,” Gifford said.