Although COVID-19 infections and deaths in nursing homes have plummeted recently as the omicron variant wave recedes across the United States, an estimated 1,000 residents and workers were still killed by the virus in a recent four-week period analyzed by AARP. The new analysis of federal nursing home data also shows that as these deaths occurred, vaccination and booster rates in these long-term care facilities continued to lag in certain states.
In the four weeks ending March 20, about 14,000 residents nationwide — or about 1 out of every 80 — were diagnosed with COVID-19, while about 12,000 workers — or roughly 1 worker per every 100 residents — also newly tested positive. The rates represent an almost 90 percent drop in nursing home infections since the omicron peak two months prior, according to the analysis.
Meanwhile, resident deaths were also down nearly 80 percent from AARP's previous four-week analysis, which counted roughly 4,000 deaths nationwide. This time around, some 1,000 residents — or 1 out of every 1,200 — died from COVID-19.
These rates are some of the lowest reported during the pandemic, which has resulted in more than 200,000 COVID-19 deaths among residents and staff of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care settings, according the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The rates are similar to those reported in the summer of 2021, before the delta variant wave, and the fall of 2021, before the omicron surge.
While the situation seems to have improved, nursing home experts say that the current rates still aren’t good enough.
“A thousand residents dying from COVID in a just a month is still shocking to me,” says Susan Reinhard, coauthor of the analysis and senior vice president and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute. “And it’s frustrating, because it’s somewhat fixable — with vaccines and boosters now available, those rates can and should be lower.”