The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living urged states Wednesday to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination of long-term care residents and employees amid reports that a new variant of the virus was detected in a Colorado nursing home.
The first U.S. case of a new variant of COVID-19 was reported this week by Colorado public health officials to be a National Guard member in his 20s working at Good Samaritan Society–Simla, a nursing home in Elbert County. The state said during a news conference Wednesday that it's currently reviewing a second possible case of the variant with another National Guard member working at the nursing home. Both started working at the facility on Dec. 23.
The nursing home is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. Information thus far shows the new variant is potentially more contagious. The variant was first reported by the United Kingdom.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that long-term care staff and employees should be among the first groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, it's up to states to decide. In response, AHCA/NCAL has been advocating that long-term care residents and staff are prioritized as vaccine rollouts continue.
"News that the new strain of COVID-19 has been confirmed and connected with a Colorado nursing home indicates that our fight against this virus is far from over," Mark Parkinson, CEO of AHCA/NCAL, said in a statement. "This development comes at a time when long-term care facilities are facing the worst outbreak since the spring," Parkinson said.
"This is why long-term care residents and staff must be prioritized for critical resources, especially distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines," he said.
A spokeswoman for AHCA/NCAL said the association isn't actively tracking each state's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan but commended several states for publicly supporting prioritizing long-term care residents and staff.
Colorado's vaccination distribution plan does involve long-term care staff and residents receiving the first rounds of the vaccine.