Nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country are at high risk for outbreaks as the novel coronavirus pandemic spreads. In addition to residents being elderly and potentially having underlying health concerns, a lack of supplies, insufficient health care, and a dearth of testing have led to long-term healthcare facilities being some of the most vulnerable places. According to The New York Times, over 28,000 residents and workers at nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died as a result of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. Nationwide, over 7,000 facilities have had reported outbreaks of COVID-19. The number of novel coronavirus patient deaths associated with long-term care facilities from state to state continues to rise rapidly.
New data released by the Ohio Department of Health shows that 60% of deaths resulting from the novel coronavirus in the state come from long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living spaces. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the first set of data was compiled before April 15, in which only 369 confirmed cases of probable coronavirus deaths were connected to long-term facilities. As of Tuesday, 1,031 deaths resulting from COVID-19 were reported in long-term care facilities, Melanie Amato, a spokeswoman for the health department, told The Columbus Dispatch.
Last week, only 674 COVID-19 deaths in Ohio were reported from these same facilities, which is over 200 more deaths than reported the previous week. More than half of all COVID-19 reported deaths in the state have been in people over the age of 80, Advance Local Media Cleveland reported. According to the state’s health department, since April 15 more than 4,000 patients and almost 2,000 staff members have been infected with the novel coronavirus in long-term care facilities.
Due to reported inaccuracies, however, the number could be skewed. State data has been continuously updated and amended due to missing or inaccurate information, the news outlet reported. Last month, the state’s data was missing information for nursing homes in some counties, resulting in an inaccurate count of reported infections. Health experts predict as new data is released weekly, the number of cases and deaths in nursing homes will rise and likely surpass 60% of total deaths in the state.
Advocates are urging residents and providers in long-term facilities to be tested in order to identify potential carriers. According to The Columbus Dispatch, last month one retirement community in Ohio reported that 44 residents tested positive COVID-19; in addition, 29 employees of the facility tested positive without showing any signs or symptoms of having the virus. While Gov. Mike DeWine has said he plans to test individuals in these facilities, he said a lack of tests prohibits him from fully committing to such testing. “We’re going to test nursing homes as much as we have the capability of doing,” he said Monday. “I’m not satisfied with where we are. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”
On Tuesday, DeWine said he plans to share the state’s strategy on using the Ohio National Guard to increase testing in nursing homes, The Columbus Dispatch reported. While health experts predict that existing numbers will continue to rise, DeWine seems hopeful. “I think in these next seven days we’re going to be able to report to you a lot more progress in that area and we’re going to continue to do that,” he said.
According to The New York Times, COVID-19 deaths in long-term facilities account for more than a third of the country’s coronavirus casualties. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan, China, research has shown that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to the virus. Residents and employees in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have limited space and interact with one another daily. The structure of these facilities, in addition to the inability to practice social distancing measures, creates a higher risk of spread to the vulnerable than other spaces.