More than one in five COVID-19 patients at assisted living facilities die of the virus

Contracting the novel coronavirus in an assisted living facility may raise the risk of death, a new report finds.

At least 21 percent of patients who fell ill with COVID-19 died of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed on Thursday.

What’s more, at least 22 percent of all assisted living facilities in the US had one or more cases of the virus among residents or staff members.

Residents of these facilities are at high-risk not only due to their age and underlying health conditions but also because they live in close proximity to others, making it difficult to practice social distancing.

A new CDC report found that, of the nearly 28,000 assisted living facility residents who contracted coronavirus, around 21% died. Pictured: Administrator Jackeline Bones (left) chats with Sister Jeanne Arsenault during lunch at St Chretienne Retirement Residence, a home for Catholic nuns in Marlborough, Massachusetts, August 2020  

Although skilled nursing facilities have federal reporting requirements if a resident or staff members contracts the coronavirus, there are no reporting requirements for assisted living facilities.

These centers are for seniors who have more independence than those in nursing homes but still need support for activities such as bathing or taking prescribed medications. 

For the report, the team searched health department websites weekly for assisted living facilities with one or more COVID-19 cases.

Because there is no federal system that oversees assisted living facilities, reported varied by state.

Some states provided COVID-19 case or death counts for individual facilities by name and others had to be identified by linking the addresses to general public listings.

At the end of the study period, on October 15, more than 28,600 assisted living facilities across 39 states had at least one documented case of the virus.

Iowa had the fewest amount of facilities with COVID-19 cases with only 1.3 reporting at least one illness and Connecticut had the most with 92.8 percent. 

Ten states – Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, Utah, and Washington – reported one or more cases in 50 percent or more of assisted living facilities.

Overall, nearly 28,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported in residents and about 17,800 were reported in staff members.

As of last month, almost 5,500 residents – about 21 percent of patients – died of coronavirus. 

This means that one in every five residents died from COVID-19 compared to one in 40 in the general population.

Additionally, 46 staff members died of the virus, or about 0.6 percent. 

Assisted living facility residents and staff members accounted for 4.1 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively, of COVID-19-associated deaths in the general population.

By comparison, 2.5 percent of people infected with the coronavirus died in these states overall.   

‘Assisted living facilities, like all long-term care facilities, should remain vigilant to prevent the introduction and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in their facilities,’ the authors of the CDC report wrote.

To agency recommends that each facility identify a point of contact at the local health department to make sure they can promptly notify officials if there is an outbreak.

Additionally, managers should educate residents, family members, and staff members about COVID-19 and have a plan for visitor and staff member restrictions.

Staff members and residents should also be encouraged to wear masks and  practice social distancing, as well as rapidly identifying and responding to anyone with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus.