Risk of Death From COVID in Nursing Homes: Race Matters

Ouslander agreed. “We all have a social responsibility,” he said.

“Just because you don’t go to a nursing home,” he added, “doesn’t mean you can’t be a source of infections there.”

The results, recently published in JAMA network open, are based on US federal data from 13,312 nursing homes. As of September 13, facilities have reported nearly 335,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 51,600 deaths.

Among the fifth of homes with the highest proportion of non-white residents, 87% had at least one case of COVID-19 among residents. That compared to 68% among the fifth with the highest proportion of white residents.

Facilities with the most minority patients also recorded the most deaths: on average, each household 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 nursing homes in the United States see a silver lining: COVID-19 cases and deaths have reportedly declined in recent weeks.

In a four-week period from December to January, new cases of COVID among residents and nursing home staff fell by more than 50%, according to a recent CNN analysis of federal figures.

Part of it may be the vaccinations.

The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living said the recent decline was greatest in nursing homes that had residents and staff vaccinated.

Ouslander warned, however, that at this early stage, it’s unclear what the impact of the vaccinations has been. So far, he said, figures show that while many nursing home residents have been vaccinated, only a minority of staff have been vaccinated, as many workers would have been reluctant to receive the vaccine.

“Nursing homes are making progress on immunization,” said Ouslander, “but we need to do more to get staff immunized”.

More information

The AARP has more on COVID-19 in nursing homes.

SOURCES: Rebecca Gorges, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, Center for Health and Social Sciences, University of Chicago; Joseph Ouslander, MD, Professor, Integrated Medical Sciences, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine of Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, and Editor, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; JAMA network open, February 10, 2021, online

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