New COVID-19 cases, deaths down dramatically in GA nursing and long-term care homes, state says

ATLANTA — With the announcement that Georgia was expanding who was eligible to start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the state also gave an update on how it has already helped one of the most vulnerable groups of people: those living in long-term care homes.

Gov. Brian Kemp said starting March 8, teachers and school staff, parents of sick children, and adults with developmental disabilities and their caregivers will now be eligible to get the vaccine.

“Given the steady increase in vaccine supply and the significant progress in getting more doses administered, today we will be taking another step to protect the most vulnerable and get Georgians back to work,” Kemp said.

The expansion means an additional 1 million Georgians will be able to get the vaccine.

The state’s first wave of vaccine doses focused on nursing homes, where new numbers show the vaccine worked with new COVID-19 cases in the state’s long-term care facilities, dropping by 70% from January to February.

The number of deaths declined by 65%.

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“We think we’re moving in the right direction, and it’s just been a tremendous relief as we see the new numbers come in,” said Georgia Healthcare Association President Tony Marshall.

The association represents nursing homes across the state.

Mashall told Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon that he believes the dramatic drop in cases may allow more families to visit their loved ones soon.

“We think we’re close. We think we’re very close to be able to return to visitation in a normal manner. And we’re very anxious to be able to do so,” Marshall said.

One of those other anxious people is Denise Franks.

She told Wilfon that she received the vaccine and so did her 95-year-old mother, but she still can’t visit her mother at her Coweta County nursing home.

“I’m just praying that soon we’re able to get in, and nothing happens between now and then,” Franks said.

With more Georgians soon eligible to get the vaccine, Franks said she believes the results in nursing homes show what a difference the vaccine can make in stopping the spread of the virus.

“There’s zero cases of COVID in the nursing home. None of the staff has it. None of the residents have it,” Franks said.

Channel 2 Action News learned Thursday that the state expects to announce a further expansion for more Georgians with high-risk health conditions in about 10 days.