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As COVID-19 deaths climb, new AARP analysis reveals North Carolina nursing homes still lack adequate PPE and staff

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RALEIGH, NC -- As COVID-19 cases in North Carolina continue to climb, AARP renewed its call for state legislators to better protect nursing home residents and staff from the coronavirus. The latest release of the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard finds concerning trends in North Carolina’s nursing homes, with nursing home deaths, resident cases, lack of personal protective equipment and staff shortages all above the national average.

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 is the second AARP dashboard and it 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 North Carolina nursing homes had:

  • 4.9 confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100 residents
  • 3.7 new staff cases of COVID-19 per 100 residents
  • 27.4% of nursing homes without a 1-week supply of PPE
  • 34.6% of nursing homes with staffing shortages
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24.7 percent of NC nursing homes have less than a one-week supply of personal protective equipment

AARP North Carolina Director Michael Olender said, ““More than 1,559* North Carolina nursing home residents and staff have already died of COVID-19 and facilities still don’t have the PPE and staffing they need. Although the Governor and NCDHHS have been very responsive to the needs of nursing home residents, the expected spike in cases during the cold weather months means we need to still do more to make visitation safe.”

When the legislature reconvenes, it needs to be a priority to provide the funding to make nursing homes safe again.

Phil Lenowitz of Asheville is concerned about safety. The 71 year-old hasn’t visited his sister since last February. “My sister Joanie has dementia and is in a nursing home memory care unit.  Visitation to the facility was halted in March.  Although some visitation has been allowed, the facility has reported staff and residents contracting COVID-19, including my sister who has recovered.  Because of her dementia, she only recognizes me when I am face to face with her which can't be done now because of safety concerns.  We need to fix this.”

AARP in North Carolina and all across the nation has called for the enactment of a plan to protect nursing home and long-term care facility residents that:

  • 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.

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.

**Kaiser Family Foundation: https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/state-data-and-policy-actions-toaddress-coronavirus/#long-term-care-cases-deaths

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