Giving Compass' Take:

• A survey from nursing homes in Michigan shows that they are better prepared for this pandemic in comparison to the last one, but there are still gaps in communication. 

• How can nursing homes improve? What resources do they need? 

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

Hundreds of deaths of residents in homes from Seattle to Boston have raised concerns about how well facilities are protecting the 1.3 million older Americans who live in them. Those concerns have prompted new federal and state requirements about testing and transparency. And perhaps things could have been even worse.

The survey results indicate that nearly all had a pandemic plan in place. That’s compared with just over half of the 280 nursing homes that answered the same survey in 2007. Nearly all said they now have at least one staff member in charge of pandemic preparedness. The findings appear in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The University of Michigan research team has several other recent publications with direct or indirect relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic, including putting forth recommendations for nursing homes and other housing facilities for older adults to use in planning how they will respond to pandemics such as COVID-19.

The new survey data show Michigan’s nursing homes have better prepared for pandemics since the last time the team performed the survey. That previous survey took place before the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009, but after the H5N1 “bird flu” pandemic of 2005 raised national awareness of the importance of pandemic preparedness. Mody and colleagues published pandemic preparedness guidance for nursing homes at that time.

In mid-March of this year, 85% of nursing homes said they had stockpiled supplies before COVID-19 hit, compared with 57% after the H5N1 pandemic. Most of those that had stockpiled supplies had focused on surgical masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. Less than half had stockpiled N95 respirator masks, which are recommended by national and global health authorities for health care workers performing certain types of care on a COVID-19 patient.

Still, 42% of the nursing homes that answered a question about COVID-19-specific concerns said they were worried about running short of personal protective gear.

Read the full article about nursing home preparedness for a pandemic by Kara Gavin at Futurity.