AARP Eye Center
American nursing homes reported their highest COVID-19 death rate since they began submitting data to the government in late spring, a new AARP analysis of federal data shows. Over four weeks, from mid-October to mid-November, 8,436 residents died from the virus. Looking back to the beginning of June in four-week increments, the previous peak was 8,009 resident deaths, captured from June 1 to June 28.
"It's beyond outrageous at this point,” says AARP's Bill Sweeney, senior vice president of government affairs, of the new figures. “We expected that cases would probably go up as the weather got colder, but these numbers are out of this world. It's extremely upsetting.”
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
What's more, he says, is that the worst is yet to come, given the soaring COVID-19 infection rates that the AARP analysis also found. The latest monthly case rates smash through previous highs, with more than 61,000 new resident cases and more than 58,000 new staff cases reported from mid-October to mid-November.
New infections for both nursing home residents and staff members doubled from the previous four-week reporting period and easily surpassed the nation's former four-week highs of nearly 38,000 new cases for residents, and more than 41,000 new cases for staff, both from mid-summer. Given the time lag that occurs between case surges and increases in reported deaths, Sweeney anticipates — with support from experts — that the death rate will continue to rise.
"We're on track to be in a devastating place in a couple of months,” Sweeney says, noting that the effects of the Thanksgiving holiday are yet to be analyzed by AARP. “I'm worried about how many people in nursing homes are going to lose their lives over the holiday season. It's going to be a really awful situation for families, and it just didn't have to be this way.”
The worst recorded rate of staffing shortages among U.S. nursing homes throughout the pandemic was also from mid-October to mid-November, with 29 percent of facilities reporting a shortage of direct care workers (nurses and/or aides). Supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) was the only category of the analysis that saw improvements, with the number of nursing homes reporting less than a one-week supply of N95 respirators, surgical masks, eye protection, gowns and gloves dropping to less than one-fifth.