Viral infections on the rise in nursing homes

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PARIS (AP) – For the first time in months, viral infections – and deaths – in French retirement homes are on the rise again.

Families fear that French authorities did not learn enough from the initial wave of the pandemic, when nursing homes closed the elderly inside and staff lacked protective equipment. Of the 31,338 people confirmed to have died in France from the virus this year, more than 14,000 – almost half – were living in nursing homes.

President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday visited a retirement home in the town of Bracieux, in central France, as the government tries to deal with the resurgence of infections while insisting the country should return to school and at work and should “learn to live with the virus”.

This strategy is increasingly in demand.

France now reports several thousand new cases of the virus per day and more than 80 new cases per week per 100,000 inhabitants, among the highest rates in Europe, which itself sees the virus spreading rapidly.

More importantly, the number of patients infected with the virus in French hospitals and in intensive care units is again steadily increasing. Although hospitals are far from reaching their peak of admission and are better prepared this time around, some COVID services in hot spots like Marseille are filling up.

While the spike in summer infections after the lockdown in France has focused mainly on young people, the public health agency Sante Publique says cases are now increasing more rapidly among those over 75, considered to be the most vulnerable to serious health problems linked to COVID.

Nursing homes reported dozens of new virus clusters and 89 virus-related deaths in the week of September 7, the first significant increase in months, according to the agency’s latest figures. Six of the deaths occurred in a single nursing home in Occitanie, in the south of France. More and more French retirement homes are once again closing their doors to visitors.

The health agency has warned that the increase in virus clusters and deaths in nursing homes and the increase in cases among people over 75 are “major warning signs” for the public to to better protect themselves and their elders.

Like Britain and some other countries, France is also struggling to test blockages. A massive testing effort has identified more confirmed cases, but labs are struggling to keep up with demand.

It takes up to a week or more for virus test results in Paris and some other French cities to come back. The health agency says the delays mean the actual number of cases of new infections is even higher – and is hampering efforts by medical authorities to trace contacts and stop the spread of the virus.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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