In conflict-ridden COVID-19 communication, there was an oasis of agreement — nursing homes.

Keeping COVID-19 out of these facilities where it had a tendency to run fatally amok was something just about everyone agreed on.

Not to say this oasis of agreement was politically peaceful — the Democractic-led decision to house recovering COVID patients in congregate care settings drew Republican fire. But that’s because nursing homes and their vulnerable residents were places where no one, no matter who one voted for, wanted to take chances.

We will need to draw upon this oasis of agreement to stem the flow of a bad situation getting worse.

Federal data shows a plummeting nursing home workforce in Michigan — down 18 percent, or nearly 8,000 workers, since 2014. Resident numbers dipped, too, but only by 7 percent, according to recent Bridge Michigan reporting.

The worst drop happened, not coincidentally, with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as workers worried about exposing themselves and their families.

According to state long-term care numbers (self-reported by the facilities) 4,437 residents and 57 staff members of Adult Foster Cares, Homes for the Aged and Skilled Nursing Facilities died with COVID-19 through Dec. 8.

In a weird opposite-world-flip now common in the pandemic, workers now are quitting because of vaccination policies, administrators told Bridge reporters.

The current vaccination rate among nursing home staff is 66 percent, placing Michigan in the bottom ranks among Ohio, Oklahoma and Montana.

For those who remain, the extra workload and navigating pandemic precautions only increases the squeeze — and unfortunately, the state-boosted $2.35/hour bump wasn’t the juice that was hoped.

“Arguments flare up,” Lisa Elliott, a certified nursing assistant at Regency at St. Clair Shores, told Bridge. “People are burnt out. They’re tired … We’re lashing out at each other over little things.”

We need to figure out a solution, quickly. And we think that the solution can and should be a bipartisan effort that starts with the consensus that already exists.

Because we know nursing home work is hard enough on a good day, and what COVID-19 can do to our state’s vulnerable residents.

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