New AARP Analysis Shows COVID Crisis Continues in Nursing Homes: Massachusetts Death Rates Remain Staggering


AARP Massachusetts Continues to Urge Massachusetts Lawmakers to take action

Mike Festa of AARP
Mike Festa

By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts

The latest release of AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard shows that the crisis in these facilities continues as deaths and new infections rise in Massachusetts. From December 21 to January 17, deaths among residents increased to 1.9 per 100 residents. Additionally, the rate of coronavirus cases per 100 residents increased from 5.7 to 6.3 among residents and from 5.4 to 6.2 among staff. 

The dashboard found that staffing and PPE shortages remain a significant problem. Shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) have declined slightly over the same period, from .082% of nursing homes without a one-week supply in January to .017% in February. Any nursing home without a one-week supply of PPE is concerning.  Meanwhile, staffing shortages remain a persistent problem, with .064% of facilities reporting a shortage in the most recent dashboard.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, roughly 34% of COVID deaths involve residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. 

AARP has been urging Massachusetts Legislators to protect nursing home residents and staff from COVID-19.  We are approaching the one-year anniversary of the first known coronavirus cases in nursing homes, yet the number of deaths and cases in these facilities remains appallingly high. The devastation this pandemic has brought to nursing home residents and their families has exposed fundamental reforms that must be made in nursing homes and to the long-term care system. We cannot lower our guard.

The nursing home industry in Massachusetts has struggled with quality care and infection control for years. AARP urges elected officials to act immediately, focusing this year on:

  • Enacting or making permanent the components of AARP’s five-point plan:
  • Prioritizing regular and ongoing testing and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents and staff—as well as for inspectors and any visitors.
  • Improving transparency focused on daily, public reporting of cases and deaths in facilities; communication with families about discharges and transfers; and accountability for state and federal funding that goes to facilities.
  • Ensuring access to in-person visitation following federal and state guidelines for safety, and require continued access to virtual visitation for all residents.
  • Ensuring quality care for residents through adequate staffing, oversight, and access to in-person formal advocates, called long-term care Ombudsmen.
  • Reject immunity and hold long-term care facilities accountable when they fail to provide adequate care to residents.  
  • Establishing minimum nursing staffing standards.
  • Improving minimum wages for staff in residential and home care settings.
  • Ensuring progress is made so that in-person visitation can safely occur and facilitating virtual visitation.
  • Creating a pathway for single occupancy rooms in nursing homes.

Additionally, our leaders must reject policies that take away the rights of residents to hold nursing homes accountable when they fail to provide adequate care. Now is not the time to let nursing homes off the hook for abuse, neglect, and even death.

The AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard analyzes federally reported data in four-week periods going back to June 1, 2020. Using this data, the AARP Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio, created the dashboard to provide snapshots of the virus’ infiltration into nursing homes and impact on nursing home residents and staff, with the goal of identifying specific areas of concern at the national and state levels in a timely manner.

The full Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard is available at For more information on how COVID is impacting nursing homes and AARP’s advocacy on this issue, visit



Expert Advice and Columnists – Fifty Plus Advocate