Nursing home residents account for nearly one in 10 of all coronavirus cases in the US and more than a quarter of the deaths in the country, according to a new report.
Today COVID-19 has infected more than two million people and claimed the lives of over 119,000 in the US, hitting nursing homes – which care for about 1.4million elderly and medically frail citizens – the hardest.
Nearly half of more than 15,000 nursing homes in the US reported suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of June 7, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data released Thursday.
About one in five facilities — or 21 percent — have reported deaths.
Nationwide, nursing homes reported nearly 179,000 suspected or confirmed cases among residents and 29,497 deaths. The latest figures include about 95 percent of nursing homes.
Nursing home residents account for nearly one in 10 of all coronavirus cases in the US and more than a quarter of the deaths in the country, according to a new report. A Cataldo EMS team pick up a suspected COVID-19 patient at Eastpointe Rehabilitation, a nursing home, on April 23 in Chelsea, Massachusetts
Among states, New Jersey had the highest proportion of nursing homes with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, at about 82 percent. This comprises 299 of the state’s 363 nursing homes.
Massachusetts had the highest proportion of nursing homes with COVID deaths, nearly 66 percent. That represented 247 of the state’s 376 nursing homes.
In 30 states, nursing homes’ share of COVID-19 deaths was higher than the national average of 26.7 percent. In some of the hardest-hit, such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, more than one-third of the state’s deaths occurred in nursing homes.
This data comes from nursing homes alone and does not incorporate assisted living facilities.
The nation’s first major outbreak, reported in late February, was in a Seattle-area nursing home.
Last week, a special House panel on the coronavirus pandemic launched an investigation into the crisis unfolding in the country’s nursing homes.
This map shared by the federal government shows that COVID-19 cases in nursing homes have been rampant in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts as indicated in red
This map shows where nursing home deaths due to COVID-19 have been prevalent, especially in New York state
This chart shows a breakdown of states per average number of deaths per 1,000 residents wtih Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut suffering the highest rates at 105.5, 101.3, and 88.2 deaths respectively
Nursing home residents face a myriad of vulnerabilities in addion to their age and ailing immune systems, they live in close quarters, often share a room with others, and share dining and recreational areas and physical therapy gyms.
Staffers often work in several facilities and can unwittingly carry the virus from one place to another.
Lawmakers are now concerned that ‘lax oversight by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the federal government’s failure’ in failing to provide testing supplies and PPE to nursing homes and long-term care facilities contributed to the spike in cases.
‘Despite CMS’s broad legal authority, the agency has largely deferred to states, local governments, and for-profit nursing homes to respond to the coronavirus crisis,’ committee Chairman South Carolina Democrat James Clyburn said.
But CMS chief Seema Verma has said that ‘trying to finger-point and blame the federal government is absolutely ridiculous.’
She says nursing homes with poor ratings on infection control are more likely to have high numbers of cases, a claim that academic researchers say they have not been able to substantiate.
Republican lawmakers also have blamed some Democratic governors who issued orders requiring nursing homes to take recovering coronavirus patients. New York rescinded its directive after Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced public backlash for the decision.
Nationwide, nursing homes reported nearly 179,000 suspected or confirmed cases among residents and 29,497 deaths as of June 7
The public can acccess coronavirus details through Medicare’s NursingHomeCompare website where they can look up individual nursing homes to learn of the number of infections and deaths there among residents and staff, where data will be updated weekly.
CMS head Verma says nursing home reporting required by her agency will ‘constitute the backbone of a nationwide COVID-19 surveillance system’ to identify and contain expected rebounds of the virus as communities reopen.
As the staggering numbers only increase, the nursing home industry says it needs much more help from the federal government to regularly test staff and residents and for an adequate supply of protective gear.
‘Long-term care residents and staff need to be a priority for supplies and support,’ Mark Parkinson, head of the nursing home industry group American Health Care Association, said Thursday in a statement about the new data. ‘It’s time that America rally around our nation’s seniors and caregivers just as they did with hospitals.’
Even though the White Houset set a goal to test every resident and staff member for COVID-19 by the end of May, that’s still yet to happen.
Also unmet is a separate federal goal for state inspectors to assess all nursing homes for infection control.
There is no deadline, but federal officials are growing impatient. As of a couple of weeks ago, only a few states had inspected all facilities.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many nursing homes had ‘persistent’ problems with infection control, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, a watchdog agency for Congress.
Thorough, methodical, ongoing testing of residents and staff is considered one of the keys to making nursing homes safer.
Federal officials have recommended a one-time test for all residents and staff, as well as weekly retesting of staff. Nursing homes should retest residents weekly until none test positive.
Verma says states should use ‘extreme caution’ before reopening nursing homes to visitors.