After seven weeks of declining weekly coronavirus cases, nursing homes across the United States are seeing a new spike in cases, according to a report released this week by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.
The report, released Tuesday, ties the increasing number of cases in nursing homes to surging cases in communities.
The report comes as the United States continues to hit consecutive daily records related to the coronavirus. This week, the country saw a record number of people hospitalized due to the virus and has added nearly 1 million new cases in the first 10 days of November.
In Colorado, 2,321 total coronavirus cases have been reported in nursing homes and long-term facilities, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Some of the largest outbreaks were seen in the spring when the outbreak first hit our state, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment worked closely with nursing homes to implement strict guidelines. The American Association of Retired Persons recognized Colorado earlier this month as a model for addressing the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
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Nationwide, more than 281,000 coronavirus cases and more than 63,600 deaths have been reported in U.S. nursing homes and long-term care facilities
After seven weeks of declining cases, nursing homes in 35 states reported a spike in cases starting in mid-September, according to the report released by the AHCA. In the following weeks, new weekly cases in U.S. nursing homes grew by 44 percent between mid-September and the week of Oct. 18.
Looking back further, an analysis of federal data from 20 states by The Associated Press found that new weekly cases among nursing homes and long-term care residents rose nearly fourfold from the end of May to late October. Resident deaths more than doubled.
Nursing home staff are also getting sick at higher rates. Weekly cases among staff in surge states more than quadrupled during that period, AP reported.
The AHCA report notes that during the week of Oct. 18, more than 40 percent of new COVID-19 cases in nursing homes were from Midwest states with major spikes in community spread. This also means the Midwest region saw a 120 percent increase in weekly COVID-19 cases in nursing homes since mid-September.
The report also shows an uptick in the number of coronavirus-related deaths within U.S. nursing homes. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities account for about 1 percent of the U.S. population and 8 percent of total COVID-19 cases, but they represent 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Now, industry leaders are calling on Congress to pass additional relief legislation that would include $100 billion for more frequent, prioritized testing for staff and residents at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The Trump administration already allocated $5 billion to nursing homes, shipping nearly 14,000 fast-test machines and helping to shore up stocks of personal protective equipment. But Tamara Konetzka, a health researcher at the University of Chicago, told The Associated Press that nursing homes cannot be protected without controlling community spread.
“Trying to protect nursing home residents without controlling community spread is a losing battle,” said Konetzka, a nationally recognized expert on long-term care. “Someone has to care for vulnerable nursing home residents, and those caregivers move in and out of the nursing home daily, providing an easy pathway for the virus to enter.”
Officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, however, issued a statement saying that “the bottom line is that the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on nursing homes is complex and multifactorial.”
“Many times, the likely causes of nursing home outbreaks are simply nursing homes failing to comply with basic infection control rules,” the statement said.