BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Long-term care facilities continue to keep their guards up when battling COVID-19. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported Friday 161 deaths related to COVID-19 with nearly half being those 75 and older.

The Alabama Nursing Home Association shared with CBS 42 that they are continuing to keep their COVID mitigation strategies in place when it comes to testing, masking and socially distancing to protect everyone in their facilities.

“We’ve seen an increase, this is across the nation, in nursing homes, we track that very closely with long-term care facilities both in the staff and the patients,” said Wes Stubblefield, M.D. with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).

The spike in COVID cases has nursing continuing to enforce protocols for staff, residents and patients.

“We know we care for individuals who are vulnerable, that’s why it’s so important that we use the vaccine, we used the boosters, that we isolate, that we follow the protection control procedures, and that we don’t let our guard down,” said John Matson with the Alabama Nursing Home Association.

Matson says out of their 230 facilities, 85 percent of residents are vaccinated and 77 percent of staff are as well.

“We have ongoing testing, that’s important to know if you have a family member in a nursing home. Every nursing home staff member is tested once or twice a week and every resident is tested when they need to be and certainly, if anyone is having symptoms or is exposed to someone that is positive, they are tested,” said Matson.

To help protect those over 65 from being hospitalized with COVID, the ADPH is continuing to echo the importance of getting vaccinated.

“The priority is that those who haven’t received a vaccine need to be vaccinated those who haven’t gotten a booster need to get boosted. Then scientists are in that conversation if we are going to need an additional shot, but we just don’t know if we are there yet,” said Stubblefield.

Once the 4th booster shot has gotten the green light for those 65 and older, long-term care facilities have a plan in place.

“Every nursing home is paired with a pharmacy and that pharmacy has access to the vaccine and booster so they can bring git to the nursing home and administer it at any time,” said Matson.

Health care leaders are also recommending people to get their flu shot, especially those who are visiting older loved ones.