AP Photo/Matt York, File In this May 13, 2020, file photo, a thank-you sign is shown outside a nursing home, in Chandler, Ariz.
AP Photo/Matt York, File

Deaths in Arizona nursing homes went down from mid-September to mid-October, despite the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise.

More than two-thirds of Arizona nursing home staff are now vaccinated, according to the latest data from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

Vaccination rates among nursing home staff in Arizona increased from mid-September to mid-October, bringing the number of vaccinated nursing home staff to 67.5%,

During the same period, deaths went down, despite COVID-19 cases continuing to rise among nursing home residents. Deaths from COVID-19 among Arizona nursing home residents decreased from 11 deaths in mid-September to 9 deaths in mid-October.  

Vaccination rates among Arizona nursing home residents continue to hold steady, with 75.2% of nursing home residents vaccinated, which is lagging behind the national rate of 86%.

Nationally, staff in nursing homes saw a 7% increase in fully vaccinated staff during the same time period, the largest monthly increase since June, according to AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard. Nationwide, 74% of nursing home staff are now vaccinated.

The new numbers come on the heels of an announcement from President Joe Biden in September that the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid would have to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. 

But while COVID-19 cases in nursing homes fell nationally, they were still on the rise in Arizona. The state is just one of 18 states that reported an increase in resident infections, with a 28% increase in cases from mid-September to mid-October, according to AARP’s dashboard.

During the same period, 30% of the nation’s nursing homes reported staffing shortages of nurses or aides, raising concerns about the level of resident care during this stage of the pandemic.

“More than a year and a half into the pandemic, COVID-19 continues its assault on nursing homes,” Dana Marie Kennedy, an AARP Arizona state director, said in a press release. “Increasing vaccination rates among nursing home residents and staff is key to protecting our loved ones and getting the pandemic under control.”

As of Tuesday, more than 1.2 million cases of COVID-19 and 21,000 deaths have been reported in Arizona since the start of the pandemic.

But the state also this week hit a milestone of 60% of people vaccinated with at least one dose, and 645,000 Arizona children between the ages of 5-12 became eligible for the vaccine earlier this month.

The AARP, a nonprofit organization that offers membership benefits for American retirees, serves more than 900,000 members ages 50 and older in Arizona.

For nursing home-specific data related to COVID-19, visit AARP’s dashboard.