Evidence from the initial coronavirus outbreaks within the United States has shown that the fate of nursing home residents is tightly linked to the severity of the virus within the nursing home’s state. With a “second wave” of COVID-19 in many southern states and a host of policy changes, it is worth investigating whether the evidence suggests this vulnerable group is now better protected.
Nursing homes have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, but recently released data show that the severity of outbreaks in these facilities has varied substantially across the United States. Some have argued that policy decisions have driven the variation in outcomes observed in nursing homes, while a competing theory is that nursing home outbreaks largely mirror the surrounding area.
A large share of total COVID-19 deaths in the United States have occurred in nursing homes, prompting the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to begin reporting facility-level data on COVID-19 rates at nursing homes.
The first widely reported COVID-19 deaths in the United States were nursing home patients in Washington State on February 28. Numerous accounts of similar outbreaks soon followed, including 47 deaths at a nursing home in Minnesota (as of April 30), 54 deaths at a nursing home in Massachusetts (as of May 4), and 81 deaths at a facility in New Jersey (as of May 27).