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 Community Spread Causes Spike in New COVID-19 Cases in Skilled Nursing Centers

A new report released today by the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) shows skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) experiencing an “alarming spike” in COVID-19 cases due to community spread among the general population. The findings are based on recent data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

AHCA/NCAL said the CMS data show COVID-19 cases in SNFs significantly increased last month after having dropped significantly throughout the month of June.

As experts have repeatedly stressed, COVID-19 cases in a surrounding community is a top factor in outbreaks in nursing homes. David Grabowski, MD, professor of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, recently stated, “According to preliminary research presented, larger facilities located in urban areas with large populations, particularly in counties with a higher prevalence of COVID-19 cases, were more likely to have reported cases.”

In reaction to the latest data, Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of AHCA/NCAL, said the nursing care industry was very concerned that the spike in virus spread across communities would lead to an increase in cases in nursing homes, “and unfortunately it has.”

“This is especially troubling since many nursing homes and other long term care facilities are still unable to acquire the personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing they need to fully combat this virus.”

The new report also showed COVID-19-related deaths in SNFs had declined significantly but have started to uptick again in recent weeks.

Parkinson and AHCA/NCAL recently sent a letter to the National Governors Association (NGA) warning states of imminent outbreaks at nursing homes and assisted living communities given the major spikes in new cases in several states across the United States, combined with serious PPE shortages and significant delays in getting testing results for long term care residents and caregivers, which has been taking up to five days or more.

“Given the fact we are several months into the response of this pandemic and the lack of PPE supplies is still an issue is very concerning. We request governors and state public health agencies to help secure and direct more PPE supplies to nursing homes and assisted living communities, especially N95 masks,” Parkinson wrote in the letter.

Using data from Johns Hopkins University, AHCA/NCAL released a state-by-state breakdown showing 33 states with a positive COVID-19 test rate of higher than 5 percent and data from CMS indicating many nursing homes are still facing significant PPE supply shortages, especially for N95 masks and gowns.

AHCA/NCAL is calling on public health officials to take immediate steps to protect nursing homes and assisted living communities especially in areas with significant uptick in fresh COVID-19 cases.

Parkinson is also urging Congress for an additional $100 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Provider Relief Fund, which is accessible for all health care providers impacted by COVID-19, and that a sizeable portion of the fund be dedicated to helping SNFs and assisted living communities acquire resources associated with protecting vulnerable residents and staff from the virus, including constant testing, PPE, and staff support.

“Without adequate funding and resources, the U.S. will end up repeating the same mistakes from several months ago. We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living communities in this upcoming legislation,” he said.

For more information, visit www.ahcancal.org/coronavirus.

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