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Racial Component to Covid Deaths

Published on June 6th, 2020

Publicly available data regarding coronavirus cases and deaths in nursing homes is “crucial” to stopping the spread of the disease in facilities, long-term care expert R. Tamara Konetska, Ph.D told the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging.  Reporting of nursing home data would uncover best practices and allow resources to be sent to providers who need it the most. She added that data would also allow consumers to access information on facilities and make the best health decisions for their families.

“We don’t have, unfortunately, great data yet on exactly what testing strategies have been used and how successful they’ve been. So a lot of what we’re going on is anecdotal evidence but what I can say is that there have been a few key lessons learned,” said Konesta, a health economics and health services research professor at the University of Chicago.

The study, which analyzed the relationship between nursing home quality and COVID-19, also uncovered the role that race plays among COVID-19 cases. It used facility data from 12 states and publicly available lists of long-term care facilities with reported COVID-19 cases or deaths. The data showed a “strong and consistent relationship” between race and the disease.

“Nursing homes with the lowest percent of white residents were more than twice as likely to have cases or deaths as those with the highest percent of white residents,” Konetska explained. That means that the socioeconomic factors that often break along racial lines have exerted significant influence on the patterns of COVID-19 infections in nursing homes.

Additional funding and technical assistance resources aimed directly at long-term care facilities would help address those shortcomings. That would mean ensuring providers can conduct regular and rapid testing of all residents and staff, on either a bi-weekly or weekly basis, and have adequate staffing and supplies.

Long-term measures could include additional regulation and oversight of nursing home facilities with an emphasis on infection control.

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