The COVID-19 death rate in U.S. nursing homes has increased for the fourth month in a row, a new AARP analysis of federal data shows. As deaths mounted, COVID-19 booster rates continued to lag, as they have for months, leaving many residents and staff without crucial protection.
The analysis also found that almost half of all residents nationwide — 44 percent — were not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination as of August 21. That means they’re either not fully vaccinated or are overdue for a booster shot. In some states, as many as 65 percent of residents were not up to date on shots.
More than 1,000 nursing home residents died from COVID-19 during AARP’s most recent four-week analysis, which ended August 21. That’s a decrease in resident deaths since omicron’s winter surge, when roughly 4,000 died during the four weeks ending mid-February, but marks a quadrupling of deaths compared to the four-week period ending April 17. Staff deaths have also quadrupled over the same period, with more than 100 staff deaths reported in the most recent four-week analysis.
The recent deaths bring the total number of U.S. nursing home deaths from COVID-19 to more than 175,000, which is likely an undercount, given the lack of reporting in the early months of the pandemic. These deaths account for roughly a sixth of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., even though nursing homes house less than 1 percent of the entire U.S. population.
The death rate is likely to continue to rise in weeks ahead, says AARP’s Ari Houser, a senior methods adviser and coauthor of the analysis, given that the infection rates rose throughout the most recent four-week period. More than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported, up about 15 percent from last month’s analysis. About one in every 22 residents newly tested positive for the virus, while about one worker for every 20 residents did. That’s up from around one resident case and one staff case for every 200 residents in the four weeks ending April 17.