Coronavirus Nursing Home Deaths Surpass 10,000 As Industry Calls For More Testing

NEW YORK (AP) – After two months and more than 10,000 deaths that made nursing homes across the country one of the most terrifying places during the coronavirus crisis, most of them still haven’t access to enough tests to help control outbreaks among their frail and elderly residents.

Neither the federal government nor the leader in nursing home deaths, New York, has mandated testing for all residents and staff. An industry group says only about a third of the country’s 15,000 nursing homes have easy access to tests that can help isolate the sick and stop the spread. And homes that do manage to get tested often rely on luck and contacts.

“It just goes to show that the longer the universal testing of all residents and staff, the longer we’re going to see these kinds of stories for a very long time,” said Brian Lee of the Families for Better Care group. “Once it gets in there is no way to stop it and by the time you know about the tests, too many people have it. And the bodies keep piling up.

This has become clear in some of the nation’s largest nursing home outbreaks. After a house in the borough of Brooklyn in New York reported 55 coronavirus deaths last week, its CEO admitted it was based entirely on symptoms and educated guesses that the dead had COVID-19 because ‘they weren’t able to test any of the residents or staff.

At a nursing home in suburban Richmond, Va., Which has so far killed 49, the medical director said testing for all residents has been delayed by nearly two weeks due to a shortage of testing supplies and bureaucratic requirements. By the time they did, the spread was out of control, with 92 residents positive.

Mark Parkinson, CEO of the American Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities, said that “only a very small percentage” of residents and staff have been tested because the federal and state governments have not. makes nursing homes the top priority.

“We feel like we’ve been ignored,” Parkinson said. “Certainly now that the emphasis has gone from hospitals to focusing on nursing homes, the real battle, we should be at priority one.”

See also: The first coronavirus death in the United States was on February 6 – not February 29

Two-thirds of nursing homes in the United States still do not have “easy access to testing kits” and struggle to obtain sufficient resources, said Chris Laxton, executive director of the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

“Those nursing home leaders who have developed good relationships with their local hospitals and health departments seem to be luckier,” said Laxton, whose organization represents more than 50,000 long-term care professionals. “Those who are not at the table have to fend for themselves. “

Public health officials have long argued that current measures such as temperature controls are not enough. They can’t stop workers infected with the virus who show no signs of going through the front door, nor do they catch such asymptomatic carriers among residents. What is needed is rigorous and frequent testing – “sentinel surveillance,” as White House virus chief Deborah Birx calls it – to find these hidden carriers, isolate them and stop the spread.

The United States is currently testing about 150,000 people per day, for a total of 4.5 million reported results, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project. Public health experts say it must be much higher. “We probably need millions of tests a day,” said Dr Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The Federal Department of Health and Human Services told The Associated Press that “there are many tests and abilities for all” priority categories and all should be tested. The agency noted that federal aid has been sent to some nursing homes.

Only one governor, Jim Justice of West Virginia, appears to impose tests for all nursing homes with no strings attached. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has ordered tests in the city’s 26 nurses, using new kits that can spit out results in 15 minutes. Massachusetts abruptly halted a program of sending test kits directly to nursing homes this week after 4,000 of them were found to be faulty. New Hampshire has partnered with an emergency care company to test healthcare workers. Several states, including Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, have sent National Guard test strike teams.

“It’s a snapshot,” New Hampshire Health Care Association president Brendan Williams said of the national piecemeal approach. “We need a movie.”

While the federal government this week pledged to start tracking and reporting infections and deaths in nursing homes, which could help identify hot spots, that work was just beginning. In the meantime, the PA’s state health services tally and media reports put 10,217 deaths from outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in l nationwide. About a third of them are in New York.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who described COVID-19 in nursing homes as a “fire through dry grass,” said he would ideally like to see any resident, staff or visitor seeking to enter a nursing home to take a quick test that would come back in 20 minutes. But, he said, “it’s millions of tests.”

Dr Roy Goldberg, medical director of a nursing home in the borough of the Bronx in New York City that reported 45 deaths last week, said his facility still could not test asymptomatic patients due to shortages that limited testing to those with fever or cough.

“It’s not what everyone signed up for,” Goldberg said. “It breaks my heart that the long term care industry will end up being totally a scapegoat on this.”

Amid the tragedies have emerged promising cases in which early and aggressive testing made a huge difference.

After the first of two deaths at a nursing home in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and other residents and staff began to fall ill, Administrator Colinda Nappa called and pleaded with representatives of the Status: “I learned what was going on.”

A 65-member National Guard test unit quickly showed up, donned head-to-toe protective suits, and quickly tested nearly 100 residents and 150 staff.

A total of 19 residents and staff have tested positive and all are now either housed in a special section of the building or quarantined at home. There were no more deaths.

In the Seattle area, which saw the country’s first major nursing home outbreak that ultimately claimed 43 lives, health officials are targeting their testing efforts on homes that have shown little sign of the disease.

Their test plans at 19 of those facilities aim to try and avoid hot spots by quickly identifying and containing cases. In conjunction with an increased capacity for patient contact tracing, this is seen as an important prerequisite for reopening the economy.

Last week, medical professionals led by Dr. Thuan Ong from the University of Washington went room-by-room to a nursing home in a highly orchestrated swab and bagging ballet. A total of 115 residents were tested and the results came back the next day as all negative – a development that drew cheers from facility staff.

“One of the biggest values,” Ong said, “is catching it before it spreads.”

About Alma Ackerman

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