Infection Control Problems Persist in Nursing Homes During COVID
The new analysis draws on self-reported data from nursing homes collected by the federal government over four weeks from late August to late September. While some states fared much worse than others, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had one or more nursing homes that reported inadequate PPE supply, staff shortages, staff infections and resident cases. Forty-seven states reported at least one COVID-19 death among residents.
The analysis found that more than 28,000 residents tested positive for COVID-19 during the four-week reporting period, and more than 5,200 residents died, showing that the virus is still raging in nursing homes. More than 84,000 long-term care residents and staff have died since January, and more than 500,000 residents and staff have contracted the disease, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s tally, accounting for roughly 40 percent of the national death toll. Long-term care providers include assisted living, adult day care centers and more, while AARP’s new analysis features just nursing home data.
“This is a nationwide crisis, and no state is doing a good job,” says Bill Sweeney, AARP’s senior vice president of government affairs, adding that the results of AARP’s analysis are “profoundly disappointing.”
“While the pandemic has been unexpected to all of us, basic infection control should have been going on in nursing homes for a long time,” he says. “These are places where people are vulnerable to infection, whether it’s COVID or something else, so for these facilities to still not have basic PPE, even now, with a deadly virus in the air, is outrageous and unacceptable.”
Staff infections nearly match resident infections
For months, providing adequate PPE and developing plans to mitigate staffing shortages have been “core principles” set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for COVID-19 infection control in nursing homes, which generally house older adults with underlying conditions who are at increased risk of infection and severe illness from the disease. PPE stops the transfer of infectious droplets through the air, while adequate staffing ratios mean better care and less person-to-person contact.
Yet in 18 states, more than 30 percent of all nursing homes reported PPE shortages, and in 26 states and the District of Columbia, more than 30 percent of nursing homes are experiencing staff shortages. N95 respirators were the most in-demand PPE item across the country, with 11 percent of all nursing homes reporting shortages. And nursing home aides (certified nursing assistants, nurse aides, medication aides and medication technicians) were the most in-demand staff, with 27 percent of all nursing homes reporting shortages.