Long-Term Care Faces Lingering COVID-19 Challenges

Long-Term Care Faces Lingering COVID-19 Challenges
Date: March 22, 2024

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently shared that there have been two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 among nursing home residents. Although the COVID-19 pandemic began four years ago now, providers are still facing lingering challenges.

Since the older adult population tends to have weakened immune systems, it comes as no surprise that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were the deadliest settings for the pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, over 170,000 people residing in nursing homes alone have died from the illness.

Fortunately, those within the skilled nursing industry feel that the pandemic is no longer as dangerous. Jeremy Cauwels, MD, chief physician for Sanford Health states that when looking at population data, “…the virus is putting less people in the hospital, which makes many people feel better.”

President and CEO of the American Health Care Association, Mark Parkinson, feels significantly relieved by the improvement. He recently shared that “things are so much better than in years past.” He goes on to say, “We had a horrendous experience in 2020 … and then really since the vaccine came in, it’s been pretty much under control…. I think we can say that the clinical nightmare of COVID is certainly behind us.”

However, this might be a false sense of optimism. The COVID-19 virus is still dangerous, especially for those who are older and have a compromised immune system. The vaccine and the changing nature of the virus may make it appear not as serious, but it is most definitely still relevant and hazardous.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that as of the start of 2024, over 70,000 residents of nursing homes have tested positive for the virus. Of that statistic, about 1,500 have died as a result of contracting COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine, which was released in December 2020, was heavily enforced but public interest has been steadily dropping since people received their first shot. Data shows that about 90% of nursing home admissions are from hospitals or a surrounding community, however, only 10% have been vaccinated. Long-term care providers need to make a collective effort to push the vaccine and ensure that residents are safe.

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Henreckson, Josh. “Nearing 2 Million Covid Cases, Where Do Nursing Homes Now Stand?” McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, 20 Feb. 2024, www.mcknights.com/news/nearing-2-million-covid-cases-where-do-nursing-homes-now-stand/

Julia Kourpas