COVID-19 Cases Rebound Sharply in U.S. Nursing Homes

By mid-July, nursing homes across the Sunbelt region accounted for 69 percent of COVID-19 deaths

Nurse with patient on respirator

TUESDAY, Aug. 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- COVID-19 cases in U.S. nursing homes rose nearly 80 percent earlier this summer, and the vast majority of them occurred in Sunbelt states, a new study shows.

In the week starting July 26, the nation's nursing homes had 9,715 COVID-19 cases -- up 77 percent from the week of June 21, when new cases bottomed out at 5,480, according to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL). The latest spike has surpassed the previous peak, recorded May 31, the analysis of updated data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows.

During the last week of July, U.S. nursing homes recorded 1,706 COVID-19 deaths -- nearly 25 percent more than the first full week of July, when deaths hit a low point. And the Sunbelt states -- home to thousands of retirees -- were especially hard-hit, the report showed. By mid-July, nursing homes across the region accounted for 69 percent of COVID-19 deaths compared with 28 percent the week of May 31, according to the report.

"With the recent major spikes of COVID cases in many states across the country, we were very concerned this trend would lead to an increase in cases in nursing homes and, unfortunately, it has," Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the AHCA/NCAL, said in a statement. "This is especially troubling since many nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are still unable to acquire the personal protective equipment and testing they need to fully combat this virus."

While shortages of personal protective equipment are a major concern for long-term care facilities, the lack of reliable and rapid-result testing is their main concern. In a June survey, 87 percent of nursing homes said it was taking two days or more to get test results for residents and staff, and one in four nursing homes said it was taking five days or longer.

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