NEW YORK (AP) – More than 3,300 deaths nationwide have been linked to outbreaks of coronaviruses in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, an alarming increase in the past two weeks alone, according to the latest Associated Press count.
Because the federal government has not released its own tally, the PA has maintained its own tally based on media reports and state health services. The latest count of at least 3,323 deaths is up from 450 deaths just 10 days ago.
But the true toll among the one million people, mostly frail and elderly, who live in such facilities is probably much higher, experts say, since most state figures don’t include those who have died without having been tested for COVID-19.
In recent weeks, epidemics have broken out: one in a nursing home on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, which has killed 42 and infected more than 100, another in a nursing home in central Indiana which killed 24 and infected 16, and one in a veteran. home in Holyoke, Mass., which killed 37, infected 76 and launched a federal investigation. It comes weeks after an epidemic at a Kirkland nursing home on the outskirts of Seattle, which has so far left 43 people dead.
And these are just the epidemics that we are experiencing. Most states only provide the total number of deaths in nursing homes and do not provide details on specific outbreaks. Among them, the national leader, New York, is responsible for 1,880 deaths in nursing homes for approximately 96,000 inhabitants, but has so far refused to detail specific epidemics, citing confidentiality concerns.
Experts say deaths in nursing homes may continue to increase due to chronic staff shortages compounded by the coronavirus crisis, a shortage of protective supplies and a continuing lack of available tests.
And the deaths have soared despite measures taken by the federal government in mid-March to ban visitors, cease all group activities and require that every worker be screened for fever or respiratory symptoms. every shift.
But a PA report earlier this month found that infections continued to spread in nursing homes because such screenings did not catch infected people but asymptomatic. Several major epidemics have been attributed to these spreaders, including infected health workers who worked in several different nursing homes.
Last week, the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that regulate nursing homes issued recommendations urging nursing homes to use separate staffing teams for residents and to designate separate facilities within nursing homes. nursing care to keep COVID-19 positive residents away from those who have been screened. negative.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who leads the White House coronavirus response, suggested last week that as more COVID-19 tests become available, nursing homes should be a top priority.
“We really need to make sure that the nursing homes have sentinel surveillance. And what do I mean by that? That we are actively testing in nursing homes, both residents and workers, ”said Birx.