The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) published a report Tuesday showing that confirmed Covid-19 cases in US nursing homes are rising rapidly again after a steady decline in June, due to a jump in cases in the general population.
“As we feared and have been warning government leaders over the past couple months, the spike in COVID cases in the general population across the U.S. has led to increased cases in nursing homes,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the AHCA/NCAL, told CNN via email.
The report's findings: The report used data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which in conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compiles weekly statistics from nursing homes.
Those numbers show that Covid-19 cases in nursing homes rose to 8,628 for the week of July 19, from a low of 5,468 for the week of June 21, just a month earlier. (July 19 is the last week for which complete information is available.)
The report shows deaths are also trending up but, as of the week of July 19, not at the same rate.
Reasons for the spike: The AHCA/NCAL report attributed community spread to the rapid uptick in cases, pointing to the soaring number of infections among the general population in many states in late June and July.
Lack of rapid testing and an inadequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) is compounding the problem.
“As the CMS data shows, the increase in new cases in nursing homes is being driven by the spike in cases in the surrounding communities and exacerbated by shortages in PPE and the significant delay [up to five days or longer] in obtaining test results for nursing home staff and residents,” Parkinson said.
Call to action: The organization, which represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities that care for approximately 5 million people, is asking federal and state public health officials to take immediate steps to protect those communities – especially in areas with significant rise in new Covid cases.
“Without adequate funding and resources, the U.S. will end up repeating the same mistakes from several months ago. We need public health officials to focus on reducing spread within the larger community and prioritizing long term care for resources, like PPE, testing, staff support and funding, so we can prevent the virus from coming in to nursing homes and help staff take targeted action if it does. With the proper resources, long term care facilities can better identify who has the virus and make tactical decisions to protect residents and staff,” Parkinson said.
He also urged Congress for an additional $100 billion for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Provider Relief Fund, and that a sizeable portion of the fund be dedicated to helping nursing homes and assisted living communities acquire resources associated with protecting vulnerable residents and staff from the virus, including constant testing, PPE and staff support.
“While we are making progress, we need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living communities in this upcoming legislation,” Parkinson said.