AARP’s COVID-19 Dashboard shows an alarming increase in COVID-19 infections among nursing home residents and staff during the four weeks ending August 20, 2023, with cases doubling and deaths increasing by 80%, compared to the previous four weeks. Resident cases of COVID-19 have increased for nine consecutive weeks and staff cases, for 11 consecutive weeks. These dangerous and disturbing results demand strong and firm action.
Higher nurse staffing levels mean fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths. A study of all 215 Connecticut nursing facilities reported in 2020 that 20 additional minutes of direct care per resident per day by registered nurses meant 22% fewer cases of COVID-19 and 26% fewer deaths. New York State Attorney General Letitia James similarly found that most deaths from COVID-19 in New York State nursing facilities occurred in facilities with the lowest staffing levels (one or two stars in staffing, on a five-point scale). She concluded, “Staffing was more determinative of death rates than ‘COVID-19 geography’ during the initial wave of the pandemic.”
Despite the unequivocal evidence of the importance of nurse staffing levels in protecting residents, the national and state-level nursing home trade associations criticize the Biden-Harris Administration’s effort (which is too weak, in the Center’s view) to increase nurse staffing and mandate staffing ratios in nursing facilities. Industry arguments that they cannot find people to hire and that facilities will be forced to close if the proposed staffing mandate is made final serve only to reinforce the public’s already dismal opinion of nursing homes (see Gallup poll findings, here and here). Industry arguments will continue to drive an increasing number of potential residents and staff to seek care and jobs elsewhere.
September21,2023- T. Edelman