New air of hope at nursing homes, once hotspots for COVID-19

What statewide data tell us about coronavirus cases among those 65 and up.
Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 9:12 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 25, 2021 at 10:29 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Outside her home at Capitol Lakes, Ingrid Rothe has a new spring in her step.

“That cold snap breaking is a huge boost of positive energy and accompanied with vaccines, yes, I think people are more optimistic about the immediate future than they have been for a while,” she said.

Rothe has been vaccinated, as have 99 percent of residents, according to executive director Tim Conroy. Across the board at the complex, the winter has been tough.

“People were afraid,” Rothe, who has lived at Capitol Lakes for almost 5 years, said. “There were many people who live here who have not been in a grocery store for a year.”

There was also an outbreak in November. Conroy said there were about 30 coronavirus cases in the nursing home, affecting half of those who live there.

“[It was] really hard,” Conroy said. “We did a great job keeping it away, and then when it exploded, it was here. Asymptomatic spread is scary, but we were able to control it quickly.”

Capitol Lakes says it hasn’t seen a coronavirus case since end of November, as statewide data reflects a similar story. A dashboard by the Department of Health Services shows weekly case numbers for those 65 and up. Cases peaked during the first week of November, according to the chart, but have trended downward ever since.

“I think a lot of the skilled nursing facilities have had outbreaks of COVID so many of the residents have already had it and may have gained some immunity that way,” Ann Braus, a UW Health geriatrician and medical director of the nursing home, explained. “Additionally, I think the vaccine is starting to take take effect as well.”

Capitol Lakes residents got their second doses last week. Braus said they’ll soon reach full immunity.

Also Thursday, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Health Care Association and LeadingAge announced a goal to vaccinate 75 percent of nursing home staff around the nation before July. Together the groups represent almost 20,000 nursing homes.

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