Nationwide, COVID-19 Deaths in Nursing Homes Doubled
By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts
COVID-19 continued to take a deadly toll on nursing home residents and staff in Massachusetts in the four weeks ending September 19, according to the latest data from AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard. Resident deaths from COVID-19 increased from a rate of .04 in mid-August to .05 in mid-September. Nationally, resident deaths from coronavirus doubled since the last dashboard release, with more than 2,000 lives lost in nursing homes during the same time period. New infections among residents and staff in Massachusetts also increased.
Resident cases went from .50 to .56 per 100 residents, and new staff cases increased from .75 to 1.02 per 100 residents. Cases and deaths would be even higher if not for the availability of vaccines, underscoring the importance of continuing access to COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots for eligible residents and staff.
Vaccination rates among nursing home residents and staff also increased, with 92% of residents and 85% of staff fully vaccinated as of September 19 (up from 91% and 79% in mid August).
The new Dashboard also shows that chronic staffing and PPE issues in Massachusetts nursing homes continue. In the four weeks ending September 19, 7% reported a shortage of nurses or aides, and 4% reported an urgent shortage of PPE. Nationally, staffing shortages also rose by 3 percentage points for the second month, with 29% of nursing facilities now reporting a shortage of nurses or aides – on par with the highest level seen during last winter’s COVID wave.
It’s now been one year since AARP began analyzing and reporting how COVID has infiltrated nursing homes across the United States. Tragically, we are still seeing far too many infections and deaths in these facilities. It is past time to vaccinate all staff and residents and prevent yet another wave of this virus from taking more lives.
Now more than ever, it’s time to hold Massachusetts nursing homes and other long term care facilities accountable for providing high quality care and safe environments for our loved ones. The state legislature is currently considering a commonsense bill that would do just that.
AARP is fighting for House Bill No. 727/Senate Bill No. 414 – An Act to Ensure Quality of Care in Nursing Homes that would:
- Establish minimum staffing standards
- Provide supplemental staff wages and benefits
- Increase Medicaid reimbursement with a requirement to direct more to staff and safety protocols
- Establish minimum wages for staff in residential and home care settings
- Establish a state task force on nursing home quality and safety
- Strengthen visitation rules in nursing homes
- Create a pathway for single occupancy rooms in nursing homes
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 www.aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard
and an AARP story about this month’s data is available here.