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COVID-19 Cases and Deaths Climb: Nursing Homes Face Staffing and PPE Shortage

COVID Test

As COVID-19 cases in Minnesota continue to climb, AARP renewed its call for Governor Walz and legislators to better protect nursing home residents and staff from the coronavirus. The latest release of the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard finds alarming trends in Minnesota’s nursing homes, including rising resident and staff cases, rising resident and staff deaths, continuing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), and rising staff shortages.

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. This second dashboard aggregates and analyzes data from nursing homes covering three 4-week time intervals from mid-summer into fall: July 26-Aug. 23, Aug. 24-Sept. 20, and Sept. 21-Oct. 18.

For the period from Sept. 21-Oct. 18, AARP’s dashboard reports that Minnesota nursing homes had:

  • 2.8 COVID-19 cases per 100 residents, up from 1.9 in the previous four-week period
  • .95 COVID-19 deaths per 100 residents, up from .45
  • 4.7 staff COVID-19 cases per 100 residents, up from 3.3
  • 32.2% of nursing homes without a 1-week supply of PPE, up from 31.2%
  • 51.9% of nursing homes with staffing shortages, up from 47.8%

“Nine months since COVID-19 entered nursing homes, cases are rising again, and facilities still don’t have the PPE and staffing needed to protect residents,” said AARP State Director Will Phillips. “This is a tragedy that must be addressed. Our state leaders need to act to keep residents safe and hold nursing homes accountable.”

AARP has called for the enactment of a plan to protect nursing home and long-term care facility residents:

  • Prioritize regular and ongoing testing and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents and staff—as well as inspectors and any visitors.
  • Improve 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.
  • Ensure access to in-person visitation following federal and state guidelines for safety, and require continued access to virtual visitation for all residents.
  • Ensure quality care for residents through adequate staffing, oversight, and access to in-person formal advocates, called long-term care Ombudsmen.
  • Reject immunity for long-term care facilities related to COVID-19.

Phillips added, “As COVID-19 spreads rapidly in the community and shortages of PPE and staffing continue, nursing home in-person visitations will be jeopardized.  Loneliness and isolation can have serious health consequences, and many residents have been unable to visit with their loved ones for months. The approaching holiday season will only make this time apart more heartbreaking.”

The AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard will continue to be updated every four weeks. The complete dashboard is available at aarp.org/nursinghomedashboard.

More resources and information on COVID-19 and nursing homes can be found at aarp.org/nursinghomes.

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