Chesterton Tribune



Virus spiking in US nursing homes through community spread

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New COVID-19 cases are increasing in nursing homes across the U.S. due to community spread among the general population, according to a study released by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), representing more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities.

“Recent data released by Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services show that with the recent spike in new COVID cases in the general U.S. population, weekly nursing home cases are also on the rise,” AHCA/NCAL said in a statement released this morning. “According to Johns Hopkins University, weekly new COVID cases in the general U.S. population rose by 61 percent to 391,527 new cases the week of Oct. 18. A correlating uptick in new cases in nursing homes occurred when cases in the surrounding communities started rising back in mid-September.”

Here in Porter County, new COVID-19 cases have been spiking in local long-term care facilities (LTCFs). Over the first six months of the pandemic--from March 17, when the Porter County Health Department first started tracking COVID-19 numbers, to Oct. 16--a total of 119 cases was reported by LTCFs. In the 24 days since Oct. 16, that number has grown by fully 138 new cases, or 116 percent. That surge of cases in LTCFs has been accompanied by unprecedented community spread throughout Porter County.

“As experts have repeatedly noted, COVID-19 cases in a surrounding community are a top factor in outbreaks in nursing homes,” the statement said. “Dr. David Grobowski, professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, recently stated, ‘The strongest predictor of whether or not we’ll see cases in (a particular setting) is community spread.’”

“As we feared, the sheer volume of rising cases in communities across the U.S., combined with asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of this virus, has unfortunately led to an increase in new COVID cases in nursing homes,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “It is incredibly frustrating as we had made tremendous progress to reduce COVID rates in nursing homes after the spike this summer in Sun Belt states. If everybody would wear a mask and social-distance to reduce the level of COVID in the community, we know we would dramatically reduce these rates in long-term care facilities.”

During the week of Oct. 18, 41 percent of new COVID cases in nursing homes were in Midwest states with major spikes in community spread in the upper parts of the region. As a result, the Midwest region saw a 120-percent increase in weekly COVID cases in nursing homes since mid-September.

The report also showed that COVID-related deaths in nursing homes have upticked slightly. Nursing home residents are typically older adults with multiple chronic conditions, making them the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Residents of long-term care facilities account for only 8 percent of the nation’s cases yet 40 percent of its deaths. “While mortality rates have decreased compared to the spring due to a better understanding of the virus, better treatments, and government resources to help stop the spread, industry leaders remain deeply concerned that the rising number of new COVID cases in facilities will ultimately lead to an increasing number of deaths,” the statement said.

Parkinson, accordingly, is urging Congress to prioritize frontline healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents during the lame duck session next week. “Congress must fulfill its duty,” Parkinson said. “Healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living communities, are already experiencing an uptick in new COVID cases, and they need every possible resource heading into what promises to be a challenging winter. Without adequate funding and resources, the U.S. will repeat the same mistakes made during the initial outbreak last spring and the major spike over the summer. We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in long-term care facilities, by passing another COVID relief package during the lame duck session in Congress.”



Posted 11/10/20




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