Over the last 12 months, there have been frightening times for our older Americans and their families. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in the elderly community like a tornado ripping through a trailer park.
Millions have stepped up to help save lives. Long-term care providers, health care workers, first responders, law enforcement, truckers, postal workers, grocery store attendants, and many more became America's heroes overnight caring for others. We learned new ways to stay healthy from social distancing and washing hands to wearing masks, but nothing seemed to give us hope like the vaccine.
Thankfully, new data is showing strong results across the nation, especially in our skilled nursing homes and assisted living communities. The encouraging numbers are bringing smiles back to our vulnerable population.
We are grateful for those who have sacrificed their families, businesses, and health just to make success possible. As John Ruskin once said, "Quality is never an accident. It is the result of intelligent effort." We have witnessed like never before, the extraordinary intelligent effort given to keep our senior citizens healthy.
According to the New York Times analysis of federal data, since the arrival of the vaccine in long-term care facilities, new COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes have fallen steeply, outpacing national declines. Seeing this remarkable turnaround gives us hope knowing what we can expect across the nation when the rest of the country has had their opportunity to get vaccinated. What is very encouraging about the data, from December to early February, new cases among nursing home residents fell by more than 80 percent, nearly double the improvement rate in the general population.
Nebraska is showing remarkable progress since its long-term care vaccination program got off the ground. Inside of the nearly 200 federally licensed nursing homes, they have seen more than an 80% drop in just three weeks, according to federal regulators.
Minnesota is seeing a positive trend according to their Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann. Just last week, Minnesota reported only 15 new COVID-19 cases from their prior week's data. Those are the lowest numbers reported since last March.
With the tremendous progress being made to put an end to the pandemic, we need to remember what the CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota, Patti Cullen, said about continuing to take precautions. "We still have to deal with the issue that people think a vaccine means we are back to normal." She continues to remind people that we will never be back to normal. "Let's embrace masks as a new accessory because we're a long time away from being able to hug without masks, especially in our communities," Cullen said.
Despite the hardships and heartaches coming out of the pandemic, it is a blessing to see the wonderful progress being made in long-term care communities across the country. Not being able to see or visit with family and friends is hard on our seniors. We are thrilled to see the positive results and the light at the end of the tunnel.