Nursing homes are not doing a good job preventing or containing COVID-19. so far, more than 3,500 deaths nationwide have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, an alarming rise in just the past two weeks, according to the latest count by The Associated Press. Because the federal government has not been releasing a count of its own, the AP has kept its own running tally based on media reports and state health departments. The latest count is up from about 450 deaths just 10 days ago. But the true toll among the 1 million mostly frail and elderly people who live in such facilities is likely much higher, experts say, because most state counts don’t include those who died without ever being tested for COVID-19.
Experts say nursing home deaths will keep climbing because of chronic short-staffing, unprepared facilities, poorly trained caregivers, and a shortage of protective supplies and available testing. Why won’t the Trump Administration do something for the nursing home residents besides give the for-profit corporate entities legal immunity? Finally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued “recommendations” urging nursing homes to use separate staffing teams for residents, and to designate separate facilities within nursing homes to keep COVID-19 positive residents away from those who have tested negative. That seems obvious. Why wasn’t that being done earlier?
Dr. Deborah Birx, who leads the White House coronavirus response, suggested this past week that as more COVID-19 tests become available, nursing homes should be a top priority. “We need to really ensure that nursing homes have sentinel surveillance. And what do I mean by that? That we’re actively testing in nursing homes, both the residents and the workers, at all times,” Birx said.