Nursing homes with a higher proportion of Black and Hispanic residents reported more than three times as many COVID-19 deaths as homes with more white residents, according to a new national study. Nursing homes with more than 40 percent minority residents reported coronavirus case and death counts that were 3.3-fold higher than facilities with more than 97 percent white residents.
Black Americans are more commonly admitted to facilities with “lower nurse staffing ratios, more serious regulatory deficiencies, and a higher likelihood of being terminated from the Medicaid program,” researchers wrote in the study.
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"Non-White residents are more likely to live in facilities that are larger, which creates more opportunity for viral transmission,” they continued. “COVID-19 is more prevalent in non-White communities, and community spread is a factor associated with cases and deaths in nursing homes.” Minority residents, they said, are “in the eye of that perfect storm."
The study, conducted by a team at the University of Chicago, was published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, a journal of the American Medical Association.
In the United States, minority populations have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, such as assisted living residences, account for 36 percent of the more than 475,000 U.S. COVID-19 fatalities. Less than 1 percent of the population lives in long-term care.
But few studies have focused on the intersection of these two populations, says AARP's Elaine Ryan, vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration. “The study is critically important,” she explains, “because it is the first type of data and insights that show how vulnerable these minority populations in the facilities really are.”
"The findings are devastating,” Ryan adds. “They show that there's structural racism and inequality in long-term care and immediate action must be taken to get these residents more help and support."