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number of deaths from Coronavirus infections in U.S. nursing homes exceeds 84,000 U.S. media: this could have been avoided

number of deaths from Coronavirus infections in U.S. nursing homes exceeds 84,000 U.S. media: this could have been avoided

△The first nursing home in the United States with an outbreak (photo source: Seattle Times)

According to a report by the New York Times, a private nursing home in Kansas, Andbe Home, has a full-scale outbreak of COVID-19 recently, and none of the elderly living here are spared…

All 62 elderly people were infected in two weeks

On October 7, local time, an old man tested positive for the new crown virus. Two weeks later, all 62 old people in the nursing home were infected. So far, 12 staff and 10 elderly people have died.

△The Anderby House Nursing Home where the epidemic occurred (Image source: Nebraska TV)

“I am sad to announce that our nursing home has a full-scale outbreak.” The administrator of the Anderby House wrote on Facebook. “Now, the nursing home is forbidden to enter visitors, and every elderly person is isolated in his own room.”

Death is sweeping across the rural areas of the Great Plains and the north-central states of the United States at an unimaginable speed. For more than half a year, these sparsely populated places once regarded the virus as a distant threat, and now they have become the hardest hit areas for a new wave of epidemics. Norton County, where Anderby House is located, has a large area with sparsely populated areas, with only 5,400 permanent residents. Since March this year, a total of 340 cases of infection have been detected in the county, but 300 of them were detected in the most recent month.

Enclosed spaces with densely populated people are often more prone to collective infections, and this virus is even more deadly for elderly people over 60 with underlying diseases. “New York Times” data shows that the number of infections among the elderly and carers in nursing homes in the United States has exceeded 540,000, of which more than 84,000 have died. In 15 states, the death rate of elderly people and carers in nursing homes accounts for at least half of the total deaths in the local area.

△The death toll in nursing homes in 15 states accounted for more than half of the total number of local deaths (photo source: “New York Times”)

84,000 deaths are not inevitable

In early September, the “New York Times” published an article titled “How many of the 68,000 deaths could have been avoided” saying that it is “unreasonable” for so many people to die in nursing homes because of the new crown virus. More than a month later, the number climbed to 84,000, accounting for 38% of all deaths in the United States.

△ Screenshot of the New York Times report in early September

According to reports, a nursing home in Seattle was one of the first places where the epidemic broke out in the United States. All nursing homes have been warned that the elderly will be a vulnerable group in this epidemic. However, most nursing homes have not taken prompt measures to strengthen medical protection.

The New York Times pointed out that an ongoing study showed that the main source of outbreaks in nursing homes is not infected elderly people, but asymptomatic caregivers. They brought the virus from outside into the closed space of the nursing home. If these caregivers can carry out the necessary tests and nursing homes can strengthen management, many deaths may be avoided.

Billions of dollars in aid

According to the New York Times, about 70% of nursing homes in the United States are operated by for-profit companies including private investment companies. A recent accountability report from the federal government showed that almost half of nursing homes violated epidemic control standards and failed to properly isolate infected patients. The report also pointed out that about 43% of nursing homes did not have a contingency plan, which made them helpless in the event of an outbreak.

According to reports, since the outbreak, the nursing home industry has received billions of dollars in emergency aid from the government. However, the operators did not use these assistance to improve management and care for patients, and most of the money went to personal pockets. An investigation by ProPublica, a non-profit news organization in New York, found that some nursing home operating companies even reached agreements with people infected with the new crown virus to defraud government assistance. There are also some private nursing homes defrauding medical insurance and demanding rebates.

Government negligence and lack of effective management

The New York Times pointed out that instead of arousing vigilance about the practices of these investment companies, the federal government gave the industry more preferential policies: lower fines, lower taxes, and relax training requirements for nursing staff. In order to prevent nursing homes from closing down due to heavy litigation, the White House has formulated corresponding regulations to ensure that from 2019 to 2024, nursing homes are completely free from lawsuits for improper death and misconduct, including lawsuits related to the new crown virus.

Secondly, the detection of the new coronavirus in the US market is very disorderly. Since the outbreak, nursing homes have never enjoyed the right to priority testing. In addition, various medical companies bid against each other, and the quality of protective equipment used in nursing homes varies.

△Medical staff showed inferior protective clothing without cuffs (picture source: “Wall Street Journal”)

Late testing, poor-quality gloves and protective clothing, and unenforceable mandatory measures are all facts that cannot be avoided. The New York Times suggested that one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in nursing homes in the United States is for the government to lead the supply chain of protective equipment to ensure quantity and quality.

The shortage of nursing staff, the new wave of epidemic situation is more severe

The New York Times reported that nursing care workers in nursing homes are currently one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Among the 84,000 deaths, their proportion cannot be ignored. Due to the illness or resignation of qualified nursing staff, the shortage of staff is currently a very serious reality.

In order to save money and to recruit more nursing workers, many nursing homes have lowered the requirements for the quality of nursing staff. They take low wages and start to work after receiving short training. According to people familiar with the matter, due to low income, these care workers are working several jobs at the same time, and they are often struggling between several nursing homes. Nursing staff who rush to work for their livelihoods do not know how to take care of the elderly properly, and at the same time they do not know how to better protect themselves. This situation will undoubtedly put the fragile nursing homes in a more dangerous situation.

△ Nursing home care staff at work (Source: “Oklahoma Observer”)

On October 20, local time, the American Health Care Association and the National Elderly Care Center issued a report on behalf of more than 14,000 nursing homes across the country, warning that under the new wave of epidemics, large-scale infections in nursing homes in the United States may face another peak.

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