Ouslander agreed. “We all have a social responsibility,” he said.
“Just because you’re not going into a nursing home,” he added, “doesn’t mean you can’t be a source of infections there.”
The findings, recently published in JAMA Network Open, are based on U.S. federal data from 13,312 nursing homes. As of Sept. 13, the facilities reported nearly 335,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 51,600 deaths.
Among the one-fifth of homes with the greatest proportion of non-white residents, 87% had at least one COVID-19 case among residents. That compared with 68% among the one-fifth with the largest proportion of white residents.
Facilities with the most minority patients also saw the most deaths: On average, each home lost just under six residents to COVID-19, while there were just under two deaths per facility among nursing homes with the most white residents.
The study comes at a time when U.S. nursing homes are seeing a glimmer of hope: COVID-19 cases and deaths have reportedly declined in recent weeks.
Over a four-week period spanning December to January, new COVID cases among nursing home residents and staff dropped by more than 50%, according to a recent CNN analysis of federal figures.
It’s possibly, in part, because of vaccinations.
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living has said the recent decline was larger at nursing homes that had vaccinated residents and staff.
Ouslander cautioned, though, that at this early point, it’s hard to know what the impact of vaccinations has been. So far, he said, the figures show that while many nursing home residents have been immunized, only a minority of staff have been, as many workers have reportedly been hesitant to receive the vaccine.
“Nursing homes are making progress with vaccinations,” Ouslander said, “but we need to do more to get staff vaccinated.”
The AARP has more on COVID-19 in nursing homes.
SOURCES: Rebecca Gorges, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, Center for Health and the Social Sciences, University of Chicago; Joseph Ouslander, MD, professor, integrated medical science, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine of Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, and editor-in-chief, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; JAMA Network Open, Feb. 10, 2021, online