SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Although a majority of nursing home residents have been vaccinated in South Dakota, the numbers for staff vaccinations are lagging behind.
As of July 19, 59.7% of the staff at nursing homes in the state were vaccinated for COVID-19, according to AARP. That’s slightly above the national average of 58.6%, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The staff vaccination numbers ticked up slightly for the week ending July 25, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Sixty-seven facilities in South Dakota reported and those had a total staff vaccination rate of 61%
The CMS said 92% of all the state’s nursing home residents are vaccinated.
The level of nursing home staff vaccination rates has been lagging behind other health care workers. Long term care workers were identified as essential and were among the first to be eligible for the vaccine.
In a March 23 KELOLAND News story, Daniel Bucheli, the communications director for the South Dakota Department of Health said the state’s LTC workers were getting the vaccine at better than the national rate.
“We have been able to identify LTC staff coverage at 55% or greater,” Bucheli said in the March 23 story.
LTC staff were part of the 1A priority category for vaccinations in South Dakota but not all vaccinated LTC staff were listed as 1A staff, Bucheli said.
According to the CDC in March 2021, deaths among LTCF residents and HCP accounted for almost one third (approximately 182,000) of COVID-19–associated deaths in the United States.
The staff vaccination rates are getting more renewed attention as cases of the Delta variant have been reported in long-term care residents. On July 31, two residents had died and six residents of a Good Samaritan nursing home in Clear Lake were in quarantine because of a Delta variant outbreak, KELOLAND News reported. One-hundred percent of the residents were vaccinated while 60% of the staff are.
Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society said last week they are requiring that all employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 1.
But after that early vaccination period and with the knowledge that nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 including the Delta variant, the state has facilities with staff vaccination rates of under 40%.
The CMS lists Five Counties Nursing Home in Lemmon with a staff vaccination rate of 32%. The resident rate is 94.1%.
The rate is even lower at the Dells Nursing Home in Dell Rapids where 25.8% of the staff is vaccinated.
Dell Rapids is in Minnehaha County which has a high COVID-19 transmission rate, according to the CDC.
At least 44 nursing homes of the 104 included in the CMS data had staff vaccination rates under 60%.
The larger nursing home operators in the state don’t have a lock on the higher and the lower staff vaccination rates. Nor do the independent or operators with a smaller presence in the state.
For example, the Alcester Care and Rehab Center has a staff vaccination rate of 27.8%. At Pioneer Memorial nursing home in Viborg, the staff rate is 77.3%.
The state does have some facilities where the staff vaccination rate is well above 75%.
Avera Brady Health and Rehab has a staff vaccination rate of 87.6% and 100% of the residents are vaccinated.
Sanford Chamberlain has a staff vaccination rate of 78.8% and 93.2% of the residents are vaccinated.
The Winner Regional Health Center reported 100% of its residents were vaccinated and 77.8% of its staff were.
There are also contrasts within health care systems.
While the Good Samaritan facility in De Smet has a staff vaccination rate of 72.7%, the Good Samaritan facility in Corsica has a staff vaccination rate of 43.8% and a resident rate of 61.9%.
Avantara has several locations in the state including in Huron where 97% of the residents are vaccinated and 75.6% of the staff is. Huron is in Beadle which got hit early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
And in Pennington County where community transmission is high, according to the CDC, the Avantara Mountain View facility in Rapid City has a staff vaccination rate of 58.4%.
Avera also has its contrasts with a 71.8% staff rate at its facility in Eureka and 53.8% at its facility in Rosebud.
While South Dakota may have improved by about one percentage point in the staff rate over a few days, it’s still lower than most neighboring states.
The staff rate in Minnesota and Nebraska is 67%. It’s 66% in North Dakota and 63% in Iowa. South Dakota’s rate is higher than the 52% Wyoming.