Coronavirus Cases Are Rising Among The Most Vulnerable Again. Now What?
Tamara Konetzka, a health economics and aging services expert at the University of Chicago, had reason to hope that a new surge of coronavirus would be kinder to nursing home residents than the first was.
After all, testing, a key tool for curtailing transmission of the highly contagious disease, is much more available now. And long-term care providers know more about how to prevent spread, from what kind of protective gear staff should wear to how to group residents who do and don’t have the disease.
But when Konetzka crunched the numbers recently for six Midwestern and Western states with especially high levels of coronavirus, she saw a disturbing trend: As cases in the community rose, there was a corresponding surge of cases and deaths in nursing homes. From Sept. 1 through Oct. 25, weekly staff cases more than tripled to 930 and weekly resident cases more than quadrupled to 716. Weekly resident deaths for those states hit new highs.
Ten months into the pandemic, the virus was still seeping into the long-term care facilities where our most vulnerable citizens live, despite intense efforts to keep it out.
The American Health Care Association, which represents long-term care providers, last week released national data showing that weekly nursing home cases increased by 73%, from 5,939 to 10,279 between the weeks of Sept. 13 and Nov. 1. Weekly deaths rose from 1,053 to 1,431 — a 36% increase — during that time period. That is well short of the peak in weekly deaths of 2,847 the week of May 31.