BELOIT — COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes increased nine-fold in just over two months, according to an analysis by AARP.

Virus-related deaths in Wisconsin nursing homes increased from an average of 0.3 deaths per 100 residents on Oct. 18 to the latest update that shows an average of 2.7 deaths per 100 nursing home residents from Nov. 16 to Dec. 20.

The Wisconsin nursing home virus-related death rate remains above the national average of 1.88 deaths per 100 residents.

There are 10 ongoing public health investigations at Rock County nursing homes due to COVID-19, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), as a total of 23 investigations have been closed.

Each month, AAPR analyses federally reported data and shows the pandemic’s impact on one of the pandemic’s most vulnerable populations.

“We know that rising cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes translate to rising death rates shortly thereafter based on our dashboard analysis. This most recent report confirms that fact following the explosion of cases we saw in the fall,” said AARP Wisconsin State Director Sam Wilson. “There are signs of hope on the horizon, but we are nowhere near out of the woods at this point.”

While the number of nursing home virus-related deaths increased, the overall rate of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin nursing homes dipped slightly from October. From Nov. 23 to Dec. 20, Wisconsin nursing homes had 9.9 new COVID-19 cases per 100 residents, down from 13.4 in October and 10.3 new nursing home staff COVID-19 cases per 100 residents, down from 15.9 cases.

Shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) have decreased slightly over the same period, from 39.7% of nursing homes without a one-week supply in November to 34.6% in December.

Meanwhile, staffing shortages remain a persistent problem, with 43.4% of facilities reporting a shortage in the most recent dashboard, which is down from 47.1% in the previous four-week period, but much higher than the 26.1% reported in June of 2020.

“Almost a year into the pandemic, we continue the clarion call that anything we can do, both big and small, to improve the health and safety of our nursing home residents and staff, matters,” Wilson said. “Vaccinations have started, but they will not make nursing home residents safe overnight.”