New COVID-19 cases and deaths in U.S. nursing homes have declined significantly from their winter peaks, but the numbers are still higher than during last summer’s surge, and staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages persist, according to a new analysis of federal data by AARP.
Over four weeks between mid-January and mid-February, 1 in every 100 nursing home residents — more than 10,000 people — died, the analysis found. It’s a sobering figure but represents about half the death rate of the previous four-week period, which ran from mid-December to mid-January.
New COVID-19 cases in nursing homes also fell. New resident cases were cut by more than half, with the infection rate among residents dropping to 3.5 cases per 100 residents in the January-to-February period, down from more than 9 cases per 100 residents in December and January. New staff cases also declined by more than half.
Still, the COVID-19 death rate among residents for the latest reporting period is more than twice the rate reported between mid-August and mid-September of 2020. And the most recent case rates are about 30 percent higher than the rates during that period from last summer.
While shortages of staff and PPE decreased slightly from the previous monthly period, around 1 in 9 nursing homes still reported not having a week’s supply of PPE. More than 1 in 4 nursing homes reported a shortage of nurses or aides.
Residents and staff in long-term care have suffered almost 175,000 deaths over the course of the pandemic, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project, accounting for about 35 percent of COVID deaths.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” says Rhonda Richards, AARP’s senior legislative representative, of the new analysis. “Continued infection control is really important to prevent against possible future outbreaks and ensure the continued well-being of residents.”