Maples Rehab NO VISITORS

The sign outside the Maples Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Wrentham warned away visitors in March of last year, but a vaccination program began in early January. Administrator Jodi Pflum says that was a key factor in allowing the resumption of visits by family and friends to the facility.

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Evidence that coronavirus vaccinations work may be reflected in the case numbers reported in nursing homes statewide.

When vaccinations began in them at the end of December, weekly cases of the disease were in the hundreds.

Numbers provided by the state’s Department of Public Health show that for the week ending Jan. 6, for example, there were 924 cases in nursing homes.

Three months later, for the week ending March 27, that number had plummeted to 61.

That’s a decrease of 93.4 percent.

Case numbers fell for eight consecutive weeks after Jan. 6. They hit a low point of 29 for the week ending March 6.

For the past three weeks they’ve hovered around 60.

With 424 facilities reporting, that means only about one in every seven nursing homes has one or more cases, or that about 14 percent of all long-term care facilities have them.

Jodi Pflum, the administrator at Maples Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a family-owned and operated, 144-bed skilled nursing facility in Wrentham, described the drop in cases as “wonderful.”

Maples began its vaccination program on Jan. 2.

She said it was a key factor in allowing the resumption of visits by family and friends to the facility.

“After a successful vaccination program with many residents and staff vaccinated, and in keeping with federal and state guidance, we have resumed visitation,” Pflum said in an email. “Vaccinated residents are permitted to have in-room visits with fully vaccinated adults.”

Those who are not vaccinated may have outdoor visits or visits in designated indoor sites, Pflum said.

Visitors have boosted the spirits of residents.

“Most important, our residents are thrilled that activities and visitation have resumed, and families are relieved to be able to once again spend time with their loved ones,” Pflum said. “Any older adult, in any setting, will tell you that there is no true substitute for in-person visits.”

Cases could drop again this week.

For the first four days of this week, which ends on Saturday, the number of nursing home cases stands at 24, or an average of six a day. If that trend continues, there would be 42 cases for the week, a 24.5 percent drop from the 61 recorded for the week ending March 27.

Meanwhile cases statewide appear to be holding steady or climbing slightly.

But the final numbers remain to be seen.

Statewide, coronavirus cases jumped by 3,753, or 40 percent, over the last two weeks after falling for nine consecutive weeks.

However, the number of cases in nursing homes did not go up during that two-week period.

They actually went down for two consecutive weeks.

For the week ending March 20, they declined to 57 from 64, a drop of 11 percent.

For the week ending March 27 they nudged up to 61 for an increase of 7 percent.

However, that number was 4.6 percent lower than the 64 recorded for the week ending March 13.

Deaths continue to decline as well.

On Oct. 21, 64 percent of all deaths statewide were among nursing home residents.

That was the high point.

On March 27 that number was down to 52 percent.

And the percentage of nursing home deaths out of all deaths statewide for the week ending March 27 was even lower at 30 percent.

For that week, 77 of the 254 confirmed and probable coronavirus deaths statewide were among nursing home residents.

Numbers in the 30 to 37 percent range have been recorded since at least Dec. 12, which accounts for the steadily decreasing overall percentage.

The high during that period was 43 percent for the week ending March 20. The low was 25 percent for the week ending Feb. 13.

One of the worst weeks for nursing home deaths was the one ending Oct. 7 when 87 of the 101 statewide deaths, or 86 percent, hit nursing home residents.

Last week deaths statewide also increased, but this week they are way down.

So far, statewide, deaths are averaging 24 per day as opposed to the 35 per day of last week.

The average per day is less for nursing homes as well. So far nursing homes are averaging six deaths per day as opposed to the eight per day last week.

George W. Rhodes can be reached at 508-236-0432.

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