COVID Cases on the Rise in Nursing Homes in 26 States as Federal Death Count Tops 40,000

More than half of the states in the country have rising COVID-19 case counts in nursing facilities, according to new same-store data compiled by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).

Utah led the way with an increase of 0.70 confirmed cases per nursing facility during the week of July 5 through July 12 — the most recent seven days for which federal comparison data was available — as compared to the week before, according to NIC. Texas followed close behind with a jump of 0.64 cases per nursing home, with Florida, (0.41), Louisiana (0.41), and Georgia (0.34) rounding out the top five.

All told, 26 states saw some kind of week-to-week increase in the NIC analysis, with 19 reporting same-store declines over that span. Most of the progress was being made in the West and Northeast, with Nevada logging a drop of 0.75 cases per facility and California turning in a decline of 0.57.

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New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts — early epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic, both in nursing homes and among the general population — had more modest per-building drops, while Vermont was the only state in the Northeast region with any increase.

Source: National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care

On a more local basis, Charlottesville, Va. saw the largest same-store increase with 36, followed by San Juan, Utah at 28 and Walthall, Miss. at 22.

The NIC analysis drew on public data compiled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

While there are more than 15,400 nursing facilities across the country, only 14,013 provided sufficient same-store data to provide a weekly comparison.

The official CMS-CDC count of nursing home deaths crested 40,000 for the first time in the most recent update released Thursday, reflecting data for the week ending July 19.

The federal figures also include more than 152,000 confirmed positive cases among nursing facility residents and 96,648 suspected infections, though many observers have estimated that the real count of deaths and cases is likely higher given delays in reporting and the federal government’s inability to collect retrospective data dating back to the earliest days of the crisis.

NIC has undertaken a weekly per-facility count, with same-store comparisons, in an attempt to track current outbreaks and testing capacity.

“Tracking new cases per facility rather than the cumulative number of cases over time provides a metric more sensitive to changes in current COVID-19 testing reach and reach of the virus among residents,” the Annapolis, Md.-based group observed.

While emphasizing the need for overall COVID-19 data, NIC CEO Brian Jurutka late last month argued that point-in-time information will be vital to stopping the spread of the disease as the pandemic rages on.

“That cumulative data is important for one view,” Jurutka said. “But if you want to understand how things have changed, and how they will continue to change over time, the in-place piece I think is a more relevant metric — to get some sense as to whether or not policies, procedures, increased testing, increased availability of PPE is going to continue to drive down the penetration rates within the existing communities.”

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