A new report from 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 in July after having dropped significantly throughout 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 warning states of imminent outbreaks at nursing homes and assisted living communities given the major spikes in new cases, 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.​