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

Covid-19 Infections Surge in Nursing Homes… Again

Deaths are on the rise again, too, and the industry expects worse to come

This is exactly what health experts warned against. As Americans let down their collective Covid guard after spring lockdowns and new infections surged, particularly among younger adults, the coronavirus would make its way back into nursing homes and their high-risk populations.

After initial outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where some 43% of the early pandemic deaths occurred, the number of new infections declined through mid-June. The figure then began rising and did so through the end of July, according to a new report from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

Deaths in nursing homes have also started to rise again. In general, experts say, deaths lag the emergence of new cases by anywhere from two to four weeks.

Infection rates in nursing homes are linked to the extent of spread in a given community, experts have said.

“With the recent major spikes of COVID cases in many states across the country, we were very concerned this trend would lead to an increase in cases in nursing homes and unfortunately it has,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, said in a statement today. “This is especially troubling since many nursing homes and other long term care facilities are still unable to acquire the personal protective equipment and testing they need to fully combat this virus.”

More than 43,000 people have died from Covid-19 in U.S. nursing homes, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Meanwhile, amid shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), the Covid-19 death toll amid front-line healthcare workers is more than 900, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis today. Among cases that had detailed information, 31% of these deaths involved workers who had inadequate PPE, Kaiser says.

Across the United States, more than 5 million cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed (the actual total is thought to be several times higher) and more than 160,000 people have died, the most of in any year from an infectious disease since 1918–19 flu pandemic.

In a letter to the National Governors Association, Parkinson requested “governors and state public health agencies to help secure and direct more PPE supplies to nursing homes and assisted living communities, especially N95 masks.” He also urges Congress to provide additional funding for PPE and staff support.

“Without adequate funding and resources, the U.S. will end up repeating the same mistakes from several months ago,” he said.

Independent health and science journalist, former editor-in-chief of LiveScience, writing about how we age and how to optimize your mind and body through time.

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