Nurs­ing home res­i­dents ac­count for at least 1 in 4 COVID deaths so far

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD - BY RI­CARDO ALONSO-ZAL­DIVAR AND CURT AN­DER­SON

WASH­ING­TON — At least a quar­ter of the COVID-19 deaths in the United States so far were among nurs­ing home res­i­dents, a new re­port said, a dis­clo­sure that came as coron­avirus re­stric­tions eased Mon­day even as U.S. protests against po­lice bru­tal­ity sparked fears of new out­breaks.

The scope of the dev­as­ta­tion in the na­tion’s nurs­ing homes be­came clearer in a re­port pre­pared for U.S. gov­er­nors. It said nearly 26,000 nurs­ing home res­i­dents have died from COVID-19 — a num­ber that is par­tial and likely to go higher.

The Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices and the Cen­ters for Dis­ease

Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion re­ported 60,000 cases of coron­avirus ill­ness among nurs­ing home res­i­dents, ac­cord­ing to a copy of a letter ad­dressed to the gov­er­nors and an ac­com­pa­ny­ing chart pro­vided to

The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The data were based on re­ports re­ceived from about 80% of the na­tion’s 15,400 nurs­ing homes as of May 24. But some states with high rates of nurs­ing home deaths ap­peared to have some of the low­est lev­els of re­sponse to the fed­eral data-gath­er­ing sur­vey, in­tended as a first step to­ward de­vel­op­ing pol­icy changes.

“This data, and anec­do­tal re­ports across the coun­try, clearly show that nurs­ing homes have been dev­as­tated by the virus,” wrote CDC Di­rec­tor Robert Red­field and CMS Ad­min­is­tra­tor Seema Verma.

The U.S. has seen over 104,000 deaths and nearly 1.8 mil­lion in­fec­tions in the pan­demic. Both counts are the high­est in the world.

And although the first wave of the pan­demic may be eas­ing in much of the U.S., that doesn’t mean nurs­ing homes are in any less dan­ger: Ex­perts say in a virus re­bound, they can again be­come the stage for tragic scenes of death and de­spair, as well as a risk for the broader com­mu­nity.

“What is go­ing on in a nurs­ing home can be a barometer for where the virus is,” said Ta­mara Konet­zka, a re­search pro­fes­sor at the

Univer­sity of Chicago who spe­cial­izes in long-term care is­sues.

The ac­tual num­ber of COVID-19 cases in nurs­ing homes ap­pears to be much higher in Vir­ginia than shown in the re­port. The re­port says Vir­ginia nurs­ing homes had 847 cases and 307 deaths among res­i­dents, as well as 419 cases and nine deaths among nurs­ing home staff. How­ever, the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Health re­ported Mon­day that long-term care fa­cil­i­ties — in­clud­ing as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties not reg­u­lated by Med­i­caid or re­quired to re­port — ac­counted for 4,920 COVID-19 cases and 785 deaths, or 56% of the state’s 1,392 to­tal deaths from the dis­ease.

How­ever, CMS re­quired fa­cil­i­ties to re­port cases and deaths recorded from May 1 through May 24, so it is not clear whether the homes also re­ported all cases and deaths prior to May 1, ac­cord­ing to a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Vir­ginia Health Care As­so­ci­a­tion and Vir­ginia Cen­ter for As­sisted Liv­ing.

Keith Hare, pres­i­dent and CEO of the two Vir­ginia trade associatio­ns, also said many nurs­ing fa­cil­i­ties in the state were pre­vented from reporting their data to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion be­cause the agency had not ac­ti­vated their ac­counts.

“This sys­tem de­lay pro­hib­ited them from up­load­ing their data,” Hare said. “Nurs­ing fa­cil­i­ties should not be pe­nal­ized or dis­par­aged be­cause the CDC sys­tem was over­whelmed.”

The Florida Keys wel­comed vis­i­tors for the first time in two months, the Colos­seum opened its an­cient doors in Rome, fer­ries restarted in Bangladesh, and golfers played in Greece. But as tourist des­ti­na­tions world­wide re­opened for busi­ness, new rules were in place to guard against the virus’ spread.

“Bring fa­cial cov­er­ings, gloves, hand san­i­tizer, reef­safe sun­screen and per­sonal es­sen­tial medicines. If you’re feel­ing un­well, please stay home,” the Mon­roe County Tourist Devel­op­ment Coun­cil, which in­cludes the tourist-de­pen­dent Keys, said on its web­site.

Road­blocks were taken down shortly after mid­night near Key Largo, the north­ern­most is­land in the Florida chain, where al­most half of all work­ers are em­ployed by ho­tels, bars and other hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­tries, and many of the rest are in­volved in com­mer­cial and sport fish­ing.

But even as the Keys re­opened, Mi­ami-Dade County kept its beaches closed be­cause of protests in South Florida and across the coun­try over the May 25 death of Ge­orge Floyd, a black man pinned at the neck by a white po­lice of­fi­cer in Min­neapo­lis.

Coun­tries around the Mediter­ranean Sea also ten­ta­tively kicked off a sum­mer sea­son where tourists could bask in their fa­mously sunny beaches with dis­tanc­ing mea­sures in place.

“We are re­open­ing a symbol. A symbol of Rome, a symbol for Italy,” said Al­fon­sina

Russo, di­rec­tor of the Colos­seum’s ar­chae­o­log­i­cal park.

Greece lifted lock­downs for ho­tels, camp­sites, ope­nair cin­e­mas, golf cour­ses and pub­lic swim­ming pools, while beaches and mu­se­ums re­opened in Tur­key and bars, restau­rants, cin­e­mas and mu­se­ums came back to life in the Nether­lands.

“To­day, we opened two rooms and to­mor­row three. It’s like build­ing an anthill,” Athens ho­tel owner Panos Betis said as em­ploy­ees wear­ing face masks ti­died a rooftop restau­rant and cleaned a win­dow fac­ing the an­cient Acrop­o­lis. “Our aim now is to hang in there un­til 2021.”

A long line of masked vis­i­tors snaked out­side the Vat­i­can Mu­se­ums, which in­clude the Sis­tine Chapel, as they re­opened for the first time in three months.

Bri­tain, which has the world’s sec­ond-worst death toll be­hind the United States, eased re­stric­tions de­spite warn­ings from health of­fi­cials that the risk of spread­ing COVID-19 was still too great. Some ele­men­tary school classes re­opened and peo­ple could have lim­ited con­tact with fam­ily and friends, but only out­doors and with so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

Around 6.19 mil­lion in­fec­tions have been re­ported world­wide, with over 372,000 peo­ple dy­ing, ac­cord­ing to a tally by Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity. The true death toll is be­lieved to be sig­nif­i­cantly higher, since many died with­out ever be­ing tested.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jack Camp­ise talked with his mother, Bev­erly Kearns, last month through her apart­ment win­dow at the Kim­berly Hall North nurs­ing home in Wind­sor, Conn.

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