The long-term care industry warned the nation’s governors Tuesday of imminent coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and assisted living facilities as cases surge across the country.
The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living asked the National Governors Association in a letter to speed up state lab processing times for Covid-19 tests; provide more personal protective equipment, particularly N-95 masks; and direct state public health agencies to work closely with facilities on resuming resident visitations.
“Nursing homes and assisted living communities cannot stop the virus by ourselves—not without testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), staff support and funding, and not without support from the public health sector, said the letter from AHCA President Mark Parkinson and NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle.
The groups requested “urgent attention and support from governors across the U.S.”
A top priority for governors is speeding up lab results from Covid-19 tests, the letter said. About two-thirds of the facilities represented by the groups say the test result delays range from two to four days, which impedes their ability to control the virus.
As coronavirus infections surge in more than 30 states and officials roll back or postpone state re-openings, the groups warned that nursing homes and assisted living communities could feel the ripple effects as more staffers become infected and bring the virus into facilities. Recent independent research by Harvard and Brown universities found the level of Covid-19 cases nursing homes’ surrounding communities was the top determinant of the facilities’ infections.
As of June 4, data from 40 states collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities make up 45% of all Covid-19 fatalities in these states.
Nearly 20% of nursing homes have told the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention they either have no PPE or less than a seven-day supply, the letter said. And more than half of assisted living facilities have less than a two-week supply of N-95 masks and gowns, according to both groups. The groups represent more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
With no in-person visitors allowed since March, facilities would like to allow family and friends to visit residents, but “with major spikes in cases in several states as well as significant upticks in many counties across the country, we are very concerned about reopening many long term care facilities,” Parkinson and Tittle wrote.