Covid-19 Cases Rising Again in Nursing Homes Nationwide

Uptick portends more deaths among the most vulnerable and reveals a flaw in idea of natural herd immunity

Robert Roy Britt
Medium Coronavirus Blog
3 min readOct 19, 2020

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Credit: American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living

With new Covid-19 cases surging across the country and the pandemic expected to get much worse, the number of new infections has begun inching back up in nursing homes after declining since late July, putting some of the most vulnerable people at risk — just as infectious-disease experts had predicted would happen.

The uptick reveals a major flaw in the logic circulating in the White House suggesting that the most vulnerable people, including older adults, could be protected while allowing the coronavirus to run its course in the general population with a goal of achieving natural herd immunity.

“The number one factor in keeping Covid out of our nursing homes, so we can protect our vulnerable population, is reducing the level of the virus in the surrounding community,” says Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, which produced the new report based on data from more than 14,000 long-term care facilities.

Credit: American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living

The rise in nursing-home cases reveals that the nation has not figured out how to adequately protect the most vulnerable people, says Marc Lipsitch, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. While testing has become more widespread in nursing homes and that could help tamp down future outbreaks, it remains inadequate, Lipsitch says.

“There will be continued outbreaks [in nursing homes] and probably more as community transmission increases,” says Lipsitch, who was not involved in the new report.

Through October 6, 59,626 nursing home residents have died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Because the number of reported Covid deaths lags a few weeks behind the pace of new infections, experts fear nursing home deaths will begin…

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Robert Roy Britt
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB