MILWAUKEE - A new report shows Wisconsin is among the top states in the U.S. seeing a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases in nursing homes.
As of this week, 100% of Wisconsin's 353 nursing homes have completed their first two COVID-19 vaccination clinics through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program.
It comes as Walgreens and CVS pharmacies wrap up the last of their visits to long-term care facilities.
"We are taking multiple steps and reopening in phases," said Stephanie Chedid, president and CEO of Luther Manor.
Chedid said Luther Manor's two sites wrapped up shots on March 2. Neither facility has reported new cases of the virus in weeks.
"We’re in the process of communicating that with families, getting visits scheduled, putting up signs within our building, welcoming people back," Chedid said.
A report from the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) shows cases in nursing homes dropped 47% three weeks after vaccinations began in mid-December -- and more than 90% one month later.
"This really is news that validates what everyone’s been hoping—that vaccines have been working," said Susanna Cain with WISPIRG.
Despite the sharp decline, Cain said now is not the time to be easing restrictions for visitors. She said 89 new outbreaks were reported the week of Feb. 7.
"Having guidelines like making sure everyone who enters a nursing home facility has been vaccinated or has been tested is very important," said Cain.
At Luther Manor, Chedid said the vaccine isn't mandatory. Visitors are instead screened for health concerns and are required to wear masks. With 90% of residents and 60-70% of employees having chosen to receive the vaccine, she said the risk that visitors pose is minimal compared to the reward.
"Connection with loved ones is something that we have prioritized throughout the entire pandemic," said Chedid. "It is a balancing act."
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, state health inspectors are currently conducting 132 active nursing home investigations of confirmed cases.
Seventeen of those investigations are at facilities in Milwaukee County.