Even as death rates from the coronavirus have declined overall since March, U.S. nursing homes, also known as long-term care facilities, have persisted as one of the deadliest environments for seniors in the pandemic.
Current analysis by ABC News of state-by-state reporting of positive cases and deaths in America's nursing homes reveals the virus continues to infiltrate nursing homes, accounting for at least 63,000 of the nation's more than 162,000 total coronavirus deaths.
Today, The Hartford Courant reported on a Yale Study published this week, which found that almost 30% of the residents at Connecticut Nursing Homes tested positive for coronavirus. Yale Professor Sunil Parikh said that is an “incredibly high” infection rate especially when you consider Department of Public Health was already monitoring infection control in nursing homes through spot inspections.
“I have never seen anything like the way this virus spread through these facilities” Parikh said. “I hope what people realize from this study is that if you want to contain the virus in nursing homes then you better test everybody or else you will never control it.”
Nursing Home Residents Are At High Risk for Covid-19 Infections
It is no mystery why nursing home populations are at a high risk of being infected by — and dying from — the coronavirus, which is known to be particularly lethal to aging, immunocompromised adults and those who have underlying health conditions.
- The reality is that it can spread more easily through congregate facilities, where many people live in a confined environment;
- Staff members receive less extensive infectious disease training than those in hospitals;
- Staff are often paid lower hourly wages so they may need to move between multiple jobs and then return to the nursing home after being exposed;
- Residents share hallways, common area bathrooms, dining areas;
- Residents in care homes are nearly impossible to isolate to begin with;
- A limited number of staff are responsible for multiple individuals, moving from room to room, across buildings or homes throughout the community.
- Asymptomatic Staffers: In May, Governor Cuomo released an internal report that concluded asymptomatic nursing home staffers were the real spreaders of the virus, into nursing homes.
According to Barbara Moran, RN, Director of Patient Care for STEPS Home Care, “The situation with Covid-19 in nursing homes has been rapidly evolving while facilities struggle to keep up with adequate testing, staffing and equipment. The lack of early testing was magnified in nursing homes, though it has since been improving. On top of that, guidance over how to accurately diagnose coronavirus symptoms kept changing.”
The New York Times interviewed more than two dozen workers in long-term care facilities as well as family members of residents and health care experts. A portrait emerged of a system unequipped to handle the onslaught and disintegrating further amid the growing crisis.
Why Seniors Are At Such High Risk for Complications and Death of Covid-19
“It is not chronological age alone that determines how one does in the face of a life-threatening infection such as Covid-19,” cautioned geriatrician and gerontologist George Kuchel of the University of Connecticut. “Having multiple chronic diseases and frailty is in many ways as or more important than chronological age. An 80-year-old who is otherwise healthy and not frail might be more resilient in fighting off infection than a 60-year-old with many chronic conditions.” Reason: She may have a younger immune system.
The explanation for the heightened risk to the elderly lies in a growing understanding of “immunosenescence,” the specific ways the immune system changes with age beyond just “weakening.” Older people are not as good at reacting to microorganisms they haven’t encountered before, like the Coronavirus.
Our immune systems have two sets of defenses against viruses and other pathogens. With advancing age these two defenses diminish: 1) The body has fewer T cells, which are like soldiers attacking a new invader, producing virus-fighting chemicals; 2) With age, T cells respond too late and too little.
Nursing Home Covid-19 Statistics on Infection and Death Rates
Confirmed is defined as having positive laboratory test for COVID-19. This may include both those with and without symptoms of COVID-19. COVID-related deaths are defined as persons with suspected or laboratory positive COVID-19 who died.
New York Times Interactive
New York StateNursing Home and ACF Covid Related Deaths Statewide
Connecticut requires every nursing home and assisted living facility to report data on COVID-19 within their facilities. Here are the latest sets of data from those facilities. If a facility is not listed in these documents, that means it is reporting to the state that it does not have any residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. These reports are released once per week.
Help Is On The Horizon: The Use of Antiviral Tablets to Control Covid-19 Outbreaks in Long-Term Care
Since vaccines have limited significant benefit in at-risk elderly populations, researchers are currently evaluating the safety and efficacy of an orally administered antiviral for the avoidance or control of Covid-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted clearance to an investigational new drug application for the broad-spectrum antiviral therapy favipiravir, from Appili Therapeutics. The clearance grants Appili the ability to proceed with an expanded phase 2 clinical trial into the US, The biopharmaceutical company is currently seeking the understood benefit of favipiravir for administration across a variety of clinical care settings. Favipiravir is a Japan-based therapy that was developed and regulated for stockpile countermeasure prevention of pandemic influenza outbreak under the branded name of AVIGAN.