COVID-19 deaths in U.S. nursing homes almost doubled during a four-week period ending in mid-September, with more than 2,100 dying over the course of roughly a month, according to a new analysis of government data by AARP. As infections and fatalities climbed, vaccinations among nursing home workers continued to lag, with only 67 percent of workers nationwide fully vaccinated as of Sept. 19.
Staffing shortages in nursing homes, the analysis found, also increased, reaching levels comparable to last winter, when the nursing home COVID crisis was at its worst.
While the COVID-19 death toll among residents in AARP’s latest four-week analysis is only around one-tenth what it was during last winter’s peak, it represents the highest four-week total since March. In just a month, the death rate jumped from around 1 in every 1,000 residents dying from the virus to 1 in every 520. Since midsummer, when the death rate hit a low of around 1 in every 3,000 residents, it has increased more than sixfold.
“It may seem low compared to the course of the pandemic” says AARP's Ari Houser, a senior methods adviser and coauthor of AARP’s monthly analysis on COVID-19 in nursing homes, “but more than 2,000 people dying from COVID in just one month is not a small number.
“Deaths and cases have risen significantly in the past few months, showing the pandemic is far from over.”
COVID-19 has killed an estimated 150,000-plus nursing home residents, accounting for more than a fifth of the U.S. death toll from the pandemic. As deaths rose in recent weeks, so did new resident infections, which topped 20,000 in the four weeks ending Sept. 19 — an increase of about 50 percent from the previous four-week reporting period that ended Aug. 22.
Staff member cases followed a similar trend, with new cases topping 27,000, up from 22,000 in the previous four-week period. Resident and staff infections are up about 10-fold since midsummer.