Report: Nursing home infections, deaths from COVID-19 rose sharply in November

    Nursing home attendant helping elderly woman from wheelchair into a car
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    One in 50 Wisconsin nursing home residents died from COVID-19 in the four weeks ending Nov. 15, and infections from the coronavirus have tripled in the same period, according to new government data.

    Along with the surge in recent infections and deaths in that four-week period, COVID-19 cases among nursing home employees have doubled in the state, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reported Friday. The number of nursing homes reporting staff shortages has grown, while the number reporting shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) rose slightly.

    AARP has been tracking nursing home cases and deaths from COVID-19 among residents and staff, along with staff shortages and PPE shortages, since early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization uses data that nursing homes report to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

    The data feeds a dashboard that the AARP Public Policy Institute developed in collaboration with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio.

    In the Oct. 19-Nov. 15 period, AARP reported Friday, Wisconsin nursing homes reported:

    • Among residents, 13.4 new COVID-19 cases per 100 residents. In the previous four-week period ending Oct. 18 there were 3.8 new cases per 100 residents.
    • 2.11 resident deaths from COVID-19 per 100 residents, a seven-fold increase from the previous period, when there were 3 deaths per 1,000 residents.
    • The number of new staff COVID-19 cases reached 15.9 per 100 residents, more than twice the 6.4 staff cases per 100 residents in the previous four weeks.
    • The number of nursing homes reporting staff shortages increased to 47.1%, compared with the previous period’s 41.1%. The number of homes reporting that they had less than a week’s supply of PPE edged up to 39.7% from 39%.

    Wisconsin’s numbers are worse the most other states, stated Sam Wilson, AARP’s Wisconsin state director, and staffing and PPE shortages persist “despite interventions taken to date by public health officials and nursing home providers.”

    The LTSS Choices project from AARP’s policy arm is calling for a series of measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic in long-term care, including maintaining current emergency plans; bolstering state resources to address long-term care emergencies; strengthening regulations and penalties in the long-term care industry;  providing adequate pay, sick leave and health insurance for long-term care staff; increasing telehealth access for residents, and redesigning long-term care facilities to provide more private rooms and bathrooms in order to improve infection control.

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.