assisted living facilities, CCP Virus, CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronavirus, COVID 19, Following Up, Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, Kaiser Family Foundation, lockdowns, nursing homes, shutdowns, The New York Times, Worldometer.com, Wuhan virus
Given the recent U.S. surge in reported CCP Virus infections (but not yet U.S. deaths, according to sources such as the Worldometers.com website), I thought it was time to take another look at the nursing homes dimension of the pandemic. Depressingly, most of the evidence signals that it’s still at least as central to America’s virus fatality story.
RealityChek‘s last update, from mid-August, found that, since the pandemic’s early stages, the share of CCP Virus deaths linked with these facilities had more than doubled – to at least 41 percent. The phrase “at least” matters a lot because U.S. states’ reporting of these losses is far from uniform.
The New York Times, which had been doing an admirable job of tracking the scattered statistics that are available, hasn’t focused on the issue since then, but several others have stepped into the breach and some suggest that the problem has worsened.
In early September, the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation reported that “People in long-term care facilities make up 8 percent of coronavirus cases, but 45 percent of all COVID-19 deaths.” And worrisomely, Kaiser found signs, as of August, of an uptick.
Moreover, in a second September report, Kaiser examined another set of institutions in which senior citizens are heavily concentrated – assisted living facilities. It concluded that, despite data even less complete than for nursing homes, CCP Virus deaths were strongly increasing among residents and staff alike between June and August.
Similar figures were published in late August by the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, a think tank that bills itself as non-partisan but that looks like of right-of-center-ish to me. (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”). Actually, the organization published three sets of figures, each using a different methodology and each covering both nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The low end number pegged virus deaths associated with both at 42.1 percent, the middle at 42.7 percent, and the high end estimate was 46.9 percent.
What says the U.S. government, you might ask? Nothing terribly helpful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does try to monitor the situation, and its data are more recent than those of the other two outfits – bringing the story up to October 18. But it only includes information from the relatively small number of states that voluntarily send in their numbers. That is, there’s no reporting requirement. The two private sector organizations discussed above use other sources, like press accounts – which are admittedly not definitive.
If you do look up these numbers, however, you’ll find that the agency pegs the nursing home death toll at 61,765 as of October 18. But you’ll also find that no overall U.S. death total is provided for that date.
The Worldometers site’s number for the day is 224,792. Do the math, and nursing home deaths as a share of total deaths comes to 27.47 percent. Yet not only is the result missing many states’ fatalities. It doesn’t include assisted living facilities, either.
I’ve argued in my previous posts that the high share of total U.S. virus-connected deaths is argues strongly for concentrating prevention and mitigation efforts on such unusually vulnerable populations, rather than the economy or the society as a whole. As new infections climb once more, and talk of major lockdown increase just as quickly, this still sounds like the strategy to choose.