DES MOINES, Iowa — The number of COVID-19 outbreaks among Iowa’s long-term care facilities is increasing amid the omicron variant’s surge, which led the Iowa AARP to voice its concerns on vaccination rates on Friday.

Iowa AARP director Brad Anderson hopes long-term care facilities start requiring staff members to get a vaccine booster shot to slow the spread of the virus.

“We need to do everything we can to avoid what we saw early on in COVID-19, and the writing is on the wall that booster shots are the way to do that,” said Anderson.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 83% of nursing home residents have received their COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, compared with just 34% of staff members.

There are currently 69 long-term care outbreaks in Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. That’s more than triple the number of outbreaks experienced across the state last month.

Anderson said the residents of long-term care facilities are providing an example by embracing the booster shot, and he hopes more staff members follow their lead.

“The residents are looking at CDC data. They get it, and they should be commended for that,” Anderson said. “The rest of us also need to step up and get boosted to protect them as they’re trying to protect themselves.”