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Special Report on COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in Nursing Homes Urges Caution during Holidays

Nursing home staff and resident

AARP Iowa Issues Special Report on COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in Nursing Homes around Thanksgiving; Urges Caution during Holidays

COVID-19 cases and deaths in Iowa nursing homes continued to increase through the Thanksgiving surge, according to a new special report by AARP's Public Policy Institute, issued as a supplement to the organization's monthly Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard.

In the weeks analyzed by AARP, November 16 to December 6, Iowa nursing homes experienced:

  • 3.56 COVID-19 deaths per 4 weeks per 100 residents, up from 1.65 between October 19 and November 15 and higher than the national average of 1.53.
  • 16.1 new COVID-19 cases per 4 weeks per 100 residents, up from 11.8 between October 19 and November 1 and higher than the national average of 9.4.
  • 14.7 new staff COVID-19 cases per 4 weeks per 100 residents, up from 12.4 between October 19 and November 15 and higher than the national average of 8.4.

This rapid increase in Iowa nursing home deaths and cases in these last three weeks is on top of the similarly alarming trend identified in the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard that reported data through November 15.

"Public health experts had warned Americans that cases would increase as families traveled and visited each other over Thanksgiving, and the reported numbers have proved these warnings correct," said Brad Anderson, AARP Iowa Director. "The continued increase of community spread is taking a devastating toll on nursing home residents and staff."

Nationally, the rate of nursing home resident deaths, cases, and staff cases have each more than tripled in just seven weeks. Deaths and cases continue to surge, with the most recent week being the highest of all. Iowa tracks higher than the national average.

"As coronavirus cases continue to surge, and with the holiday season upon us, nursing home residents are in grave danger," said Anderson. "Iowa remains above the national average in nursing home resident and staff COVID-19 cases, along with nursing home deaths. Our state leaders must act now to save lives."

AARP continues to call on Iowa leaders to better protect residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities from COVID-19 by:

  • Prioritizing regular and ongoing testing and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents and staff—as well as inspectors and any visitors.
  • Improving transparency and accountability to ensure that state and federal funding going to facilities is spent on staffing and resident care.
  • Requiring access to virtual visitation for all residents, and ensure access to in-person visitation following federal and state guidelines for safety.
  • Ensuring quality care for residents through adequate staffing and oversight.

Federal officials have urged nursing home and long-term care residents, staff, and their loved ones to "exercise extreme caution" during the holiday season.

The AARP special report includes national and state data, and serves as a supplement to the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, released monthly.

Using data released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services—which is self-reported by nursing homes—the AARP Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio, created the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard to provide four-week snapshots of the virus' infiltration into nursing homes and impact on nursing home residents and staff. The dashboard will continue to be updated every four weeks. The complete dashboard is available at aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard.

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