Wednesday, November 18, 2020

As nursing-home covid cases surge, few have completed government training meant to quell spread; see which ones

Covid-19 cases from May 31-Nov.1 in nursing homes and in the general population. (American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living chart; click the image to enlarge it.)

New coronavirus cases in nursing homes are at a record "despite federal efforts to shield residents through aggressive testing and visitor restrictions, a new report shows," Ken Alltucker reports for USA Today. "Federal data shows 10,279 covid-19 cases during the week of Nov. 1, the most recent data available. The figures surpassed the previous high of 9,903 cases in late July, according to a report by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living."

Nursing homes are a significant vector for spreading the infection in rural areas, but federal rules updated in September loosened employee-testing requirements for many rural nursing homes.

The rise in nursing-home cases is linked to the rise of overall coronavirus cases (see chart above), but the virus is much deadlier for seniors than for the general public. Data from The Atlantic's Covid Tracking Project shows that nursing homes house fewer than 1 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 40% of the nation's covid-19 deaths, Alltucker reports.

"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has provided billions in emergency funds to nursing homes and long-term care facilities to test, staff and purchase personal protective equipment to prevent infections among staff and residents," Alltucker reports. "Among the initiatives: HHS has purchased point-of-care machines and kits that can deliver test results within minutes."

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Tuesday that only about 12.5% of the nation's nursing homes have completed at least half of the agency's training program meant to help staff slow the spread of the disease, and released a list of the 1,092 homes that have done so. 

Some nursing homes may be seeing a spike because they don't have enough qualified staff. A recent study in Kentucky found that the nursing homes with the highest covid-19 mortality rates had relatively low numbers of registered nurses on staff who spent less time than average with residents.

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