National News

One-third of US virus deaths are nursing home residents or workers

Posted May 12, 2020 11:57 p.m. EDT
Updated May 13, 2020 4:13 a.m. EDT

A resident at Jewish Senior Services in Bridgeport, Conn., waves to family from her window on Friday, May 1, 2020. Advocates are challenging layouts that are efficient and cost effective but that may allow the coronavirus to spread faster. (Jessica Hill for the New York Times)

At least 28,100 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States, according to a New York Times database. The virus so far has infected more than 153,000 at some 7,700 facilities.

Nursing home populations are at a high risk of being infected by — and dying from — the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is known to be particularly lethal to older adults with underlying health conditions and can spread more easily through congregate facilities, where many people live in a confined environment and workers move from room to room.

While just 11% of the country’s cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, deaths related to COVID-19 in these facilities account for more than a third of the country’s pandemic fatalities.

In the absence of comprehensive data from some states and the federal government, the Times has been assembling its own database of coronavirus cases and deaths at long-term care facilities for older adults. These include nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, memory care facilities, retirement and senior communities, and rehabilitation facilities.

Some states, including Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey and South Carolina, regularly release cumulative data on cases and deaths at specific facilities. Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio, among others, provide some details on the number of cases — but not on deaths. Others report aggregate totals for their state but provide no information on where the infections or deaths have occurred. About a dozen report very little or nothing at all.

The share of deaths tied to long-term care facilities for older adults is even more stark at the state level. In 14 states, the number of residents and workers who have died accounts for more than half of all deaths from the virus.

The Times’ numbers are based on official confirmations from states, counties and the facilities themselves. They include residents and, in cases where reporting is available, employees of the facilities. Given the wide variability in the type of information available, the totals almost certainly represent an undercount of the true toll.

Based on the Times’ analysis, some 850 of the country’s 3,100 counties have at least one coronavirus case related to a long-term care facility for older adults.

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