The Coronavirus Numbers Are Getting Worse Again in This One Place

Nursing homes may seem isolated, but their cases are surging because of the outside world.

Following a steady decline in coronavirus numbers within elder care and assisted living facilities, the nation is now seeing an abrupt and alarming new surge in cases within this highly vulnerable population.

According to a report by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), nursing homes have seen a 58 percent increase in new coronavirus cases in just over a month, roughly mimicking the country's overall case surge during that time. This goes to show that as staff members come and go from elder care facilities, they're struggling to shield residents from the threat of the outside world.

Looking back to the week of June 21, nursing homes had hit a record low of 5,468 new weekly cases nationwide. By July 19, nursing homes had 8,628 new weekly cases in this type of facility, putting them right back at numbers they hadn't seen since late May.

"As the CMS data shows, the increase in new cases in nursing homes is being driven by the spike in cases in the surrounding communities," Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the AHCA/NCAL, explained to CNN. He added that this is "exacerbated by shortages in PPE and the significant delay [up to five days or longer] in obtaining test results for nursing home staff and residents."

A second study from the Kaiser Family Foundation added this startling insight: In the 23 states considered COVID "hotspots" with rising case counts, the numbers rose 18 percent in just 14 days. In the 12 states that had the virus under better control, nursing home numbers rose by just four percent.

Analysts warn that this demonstrates how the decisions and habits of the general population have a direct impact on those in nursing home facilities, however isolated they may seem. "The strongest predictor of whether or not we'll see cases in [a particular setting] is community spread," David C. Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, told The Washington Post. "We saw that in the Northeast and now, unfortunately, we're seeing it in the Sun Belt states."

Sadly, as many patients around the nation are currently rebounding from the virus, nursing homes are likely to see a rise in deaths over the coming weeks. "The number one way we can reduce COVID in nursing homes is if everybody in the country would wear a mask," Parkinson told The Washington Post. "When people make the conscious decision not to wear a mask, they are making a decision that will kill older people." And to find out how to stop the spread, Dr. Fauci Says This Is How the U.S. Can Avoid a "Catastrophe" This Fall.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more