The recent surge in coronavirus cases results in a record number of nursing home epidemics as the virus spreads rapidly in long-term care facilities in the Midwest and the Great Plain, while also reappearing in facilities flooded by the first wave of the virus.
More than 1,300 nursing homes in the United States reported having three or more confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the first week of November – the highest number ever in a single week – an analysis of federal data from NBC News revealed. Data do not include outbreaks of subsidized housing that are not followed by the federal government.
Many of the home infections among new seniors occur in midwestern states where the virus is besieging wider communities, including Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa, which have grown among residents of one of the country’s biggest weekly suspicions and confirmed cases, data showed. (Facilities report suspicious cases where residents show symptoms of Covid-19 but have not yet received a positive test result.)
The number of home cases of the elderly has also jumped in rural areas, with peaks in the Great Plain. South Dakota facilities reported 253 new infections among residents in the week ended November 8 – three times the number reported a month earlier. Many facilities across the country report a shortage of staff, and some are still struggling to obtain personal protective equipment and reliable testing.
“An out-of-control fire. You’ll set it in one place and show up elsewhere,” said Bill Sweeney, AARP’s vice president of government affairs, who asked Congress to hand over more funding for testing, personal protective equipment and personnel to the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes.
Friendship Haven, which operates a nursing home and nursing home in Fort Dodge, Iowa, had some isolated Covid-19 cases this summer, but amid a state record wave, 12 of its staff and 14 residents recently yielded positive results.
“Masks are still not acceptable here, and it’s very frustrating. The community isn’t really understanding,” said Julie Thorson, president and CEO of Friendship Haven. “You’re worried about the discomfort of a mask, and my co-workers have been sweating and crying on their masks since March.
New epidemics are also appearing in facilities that were depressed by the first wave of the pandemic, which killed tens of thousands of residents in the northeast and other early hotspots, only because of the return of the virus.
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At the Jewish Senior Services nursing home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, 22 residents died of Covid-19 in the spring; about 10 percent of the staff became infected, said Andrew Banoff, president and CEO. Personal protective equipment was so scarce that she purchased supplies directly from a Chinese company during the facility, he said.
Within a few months, the cases had finally ceased to exist at the facility and in the wider region. In mid-June, Connecticut began requiring weekly Covid-19 tests to be performed on all employees and residents of the nursing home and funded all the tests. Other states have implemented similar testing requirements, although not all pay for the tests.
The nursing home was virus-free throughout the summer and early fall. Then in mid-October, when cases began to rise again in Connecticut, the first employee gave a positive result. Nineteen more employees and eight residents became infected, Banoff said. Two of the residents died in Covid-19 last week.
“We knew we were on loan time,” Banoff said. “But it was devastating when we all had to go in and call the families – not only for the residents who had passed the positive test, but also for those vulnerable by the staff. We had to make 84 phone calls.”
Jewish Elderly Services and other long-term care facilities have better access to testing and personal protective equipment than in the spring. The federal government has delivered billions of dollars in Covid-19 aid funding to nursing homes with rapid testing machines, although these are less accurate than laboratory tests.
But nursing homes across the country continue to report a lack of protective equipment and delays in testing. According to federal data for November, in the first week of November, 1 in 10 establishments claimed not to have an N95 mask for a week. Nearly a third of all nursing homes said they had to wait three to seven days to get the results of the Covid-19 test.
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Providers fear that access to protective equipment and tests will also become more difficult as the number of cases continues to rise. At the end of August, the federal government released new testing guidelines that require employees to be tested monthly, weekly, or twice, depending on the county’s overall positivity rate. But nursing homes continue to have difficulty accessing tests, freeing up staff administration and covering costs, says LeadingAge, an industry group representing nonprofit long-term care facilities.
“Our requests are being ignored. The support we received was not enough and is running out fast. , ”Said Katie Sloan Smith, President and CEO of LeadingAge, at a news conference Monday. “The virus is raging, the rate of infection is skyrocketing, and the amount of financial aid is small.”
The national stockpile, which is backed by health care facilities that are depleting their care, is also struggling. In July, the federal government said it wanted to keep a 90-day critical stock of personal protective equipment on hand. However, according to the Ministry of Health and Human Services, the Strategic National Stockpile last week was only about half of the 300 million N95 masks needed and less than 1 percent of the gloves needed to reach the goal.
Even more worrying is the widespread staff shortage. In the United States, one in five nursing homes is missing aids, and according to the latest federal data, there is a 17 percent shortage of nurses. While adequate staffing in long-term care facilities has long been a problem, low wages and challenging working conditions have exacerbated the epidemic of staff shortages, which new research links to higher Covid-19 infection rates.
“We are going to experience more and more staff shortages across the country as staff get sick and are really unwilling to work in conditions where they do not feel protected. And they do not feel supported in terms of their pay or benefits,” said David Grabowski, Harvard Medical School professor.
Victoria Richardson, who earns $ 14 an hour as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in a Chicago district, said her facility has been bleeding from staff since the pandemic began. When the first wave of the virus reached the Forest View Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in the spring, management began offering compensation of $ 200 every two weeks, but stopped making extra payments in August, he said.
Federal records say the facility’s employees are now becoming infected, but compensation has not returned to Forest View or other nursing homes in the Chicago area operated by Infinity Healthcare Management, Service Employees International Union Healthcare says. represents Richardson and his other employees. (Infinity Healthcare Management did not respond to multiple comments.)
Richardson, 51, has been struggling to pay her bills ever since her husband died of cancer in September and now fears losing her home. He remains worried about the virus infection that has killed 18 Forest View residents since the start of the pandemic. Employees are still struggling to get the right protective gear. On Monday, Richardson and nearly 700 other Infinity nursing home workers went on strike to demand higher pay and adequate protective gear.
“I have to use the same mask for a week and I won’t get an N95 unless I stick to it.” Richardson said.
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