New weekly coronavirus infections in US nursing homes surged by 44% last month compared to September and deaths rose by 10% in seven days in mid-October, report reveals
- Over the course of the week ending in October 18, there were 8,575 new COVDI-19 cases in US nursing homes, an American Health Care Association report finds
- That marked a 44% increase over the week ending in September 13, when there were 5,956 new nursing home cases
- Nursing home deaths ticked up by 1,192 in the week ending in October 18 after weekly fatalities had been falling since September
Coronavirus cases in nursing homes have spiked by 44 percent since mid-September – and a new report claims it’s driven by the active spread of the virus in larger communities.
Over the course of the week ending in October 18, 8,575 new coronavirus cass were confirmed among nursing home residents, according to new data from the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL).
That same week 391,681 Americans in the broader community caught coronavirus – 60 percent more than had been diagnosed the week prior.
Cases actually increased less dramatically in nursing homes than the community at large – but the risk for elderly people is much more dire.
Weekly fatalities increased by nearly 10 percent in nursing homes from the week ending in October 11 to the week ending in October 18, while the the number of deaths in the larger community actually decreased, according to Dailymail.com analysis of Johns Hopkins data.
There were 8,575 new COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes in the week ending in October 18 – a 44% increase over new weekly cases in mid-September. Cases in the overall community rose by an even steeper 60%, the American Health Care Association found
Nursing home deaths from coronavirus had been trending downward through the week ending in October 11, but increased by nearly 10% between then and October 18
‘As we feared, the sheer volume of rising cases in communities across the U.S., combined with the asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of this virus, has unfortunately led to an increase in new COVID cases in nursing homes,’ said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of the AHCA/NCAL.
‘It is incredibly frustrating as we had made tremendous progress to reduce COVID rates in nursing homes after the spike this summer in Sun Belt states.
‘If everybody would wear a mask and social distance to reduce the level of COVID in the community, we know we would dramatically reduce these rates in long term care facilities.’
Now, the sunbelt states’ outbreaks are more under control and a new swath of hotspots has emerged.
Although coronavirus cases are spiking across the nation, states in the Midwest are seeing far and away the steepest increases by far.
The Midwest (orange) now accounts for more than 41% of all new weekly coronavirus cases in US nursing homes – far surpassing the previous hotspots in the South Central region (yellow)
And during the week ending in October 18 – the most recent one included in the AHCA/NCAL report – nursing homes in that region accounted for 41 percent of all new nursing home cases.
The region quickly overtook the South Central portion of the US as having the greatest share of new COVID-19 cases in nursing homes in mid-September.
But the Midwest is certainly not alone in its surges. Since mid-September, new cases have been on the rise in 35 states across the US, according to the new report.
That mirrors the rise in cases overall. For the week ending in October 23, new cases rose in 79 percent of US state and territories, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
Parkinson is not alone in his concern that asymptomatic spread is driving the rise in nursing home cases.
Both CDC director Dr Robert Redfield and top US infectious disease specialist Dr Anthony Fauci have urged that it’s time to continue to expand testing so that even people with no signs of COVID-19 can get screened for the virus.
The CDC now estimates that asymptomatic people account for about 40 percent of all cases of COVID-19.
But nursing homes in Nevada, Arizona and elsewhere across the US learned the hard way that it’s not just about testing asymptomatic people, but using reliable tests.
Nevada had to order its nursing homes to stop using rapid tests by Quidel to screen nursing home staff and residents in the hopes of catching emerging outbreaks after it returned alarming rates of false negatives.
A University of Arizona study found that the same test returned high rates of false positives and failed to detect a third of positives identified by slower gold-standard PCR tests.
The main priority now, Parkinson said, is to make sure Congress allocates more funds to nursing homes, so they have adequate PPE, testing and treatment options to protect the most vulnerable population in their care.