Giving Compass' Take:

• After six months of the pandemic, there are still significant shortages in staff and personal protective equipment within nursing homes. 

• How can donors help address PPE shortages? Are there PPE shortages in your community?

• Read about the impact of undercounting nursing home COVID-19 deaths. 

Nursing home residents account for nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths in the US. Age, chronic medical conditions, and congregate living quarters place these residents and their caregivers at high risk of contracting the disease.

“Twenty percent is a lot, given where we are in the course of this pandemic. I would have hoped by month six we would be close to 0%,” says Brian E. McGarry, assistant professor of geriatrics/aging and public health sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the paper, published as a fast track ahead of a print article in the journal Health Affairs.

“While there has been some shifting in which nursing homes have been reporting these problems, from a national level, we’re still not on the right trajectory.”

The study is among the first to report results from a new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) COVID-19 Nursing Home Database, which includes responses from more than 15,000 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities—or 98% of the US total—regarding the impact of COVID-19 on staff and residents.

The database is far from perfect, McGarry says. Some of the questions nursing homes respond to are “ambiguous” and could be honed to elicit more details.

“Having a shortage of any type of staff affects every aspect of clinical care, whereas a shortage of any PPE element can break infection control protocols,” the study says.

N95 masks and gowns continue to top the list for the most commonly reported PPE shortages, with gown shortages easing slightly as of July 19. Though the federal government promised in May to provide nursing homes with a two-week supply of PPE, “many nursing homes reported that they did not receive adequate PPE through this initiative.”

Read the full article about nursing home shortages of PPE by Bob Marcotte at Futurity.