Nursing home safety during COVID: Cases and vaccines

Cases drop by 80 percent after mass vaccinations, but 400+ homes report first cases in 2021 after none in 2020

Hundreds of U.S. nursing homes this year are reporting their very first cases of COVID-19 after avoiding any cases all of last year. The high number of nursing homes that experienced their very first cases of COVID-19 this year -- while fending them off during the horror of 2020 -- is among the clear indications that this pandemic isn’t over. There are many reasons for optimism, particularly the huge turnaround that started in the second half of December when vaccines started rolling out. We found that has led to a decline in nursing home cases exceeding 80 percent. But this is not a time to act irresponsibly or get overly confident.

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MoPIRG Foundation

Hundreds of U.S. nursing homes this year are reporting their very first cases of COVID-19 after avoiding any cases all of last year.
 
That surprising revelation is among the findings of a new analysis of government data by U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The nation’s 15,000 nursing homes were among the early hotspots as the pandemic started tearing through the United States a year ago. While nursing homes contain less than one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. population, they’ve produced 2 percent of COVID cases and 24 percent of deaths.
 
The devastation, while horrible, made sense. Residents are in nursing homes round-the-clock, the environment is dense, residents are generally older and in poorer health than the overall population, and staff can’t socially distance from residents when they’re feeding or bathing them or giving them medication. The high number of nursing homes that experienced their very first cases of COVID-19 this year — while fending them off during the horror of 2020 — is among the clear indications that this pandemic isn’t over.

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Bryn Huxley-Reicher

Policy Analyst, Frontier Group

Bryn Huxley-Reicher is a policy analyst at Frontier Group focusing on issues related to clean energy and the new economy. He has a BA in applied mathematics focused in earth and planetary sciences from Harvard University.

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