One of the long-running debates over the ongoing coronavirus lockdowns has been the disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths in America’s nursing homes and how those deaths have skewed the data used to set public policy.
It seems that everyone understands that residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities are the most vulnerable among us. But now we have research that shows just how vulnerable they have been.
New data from the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity has revealed that an estimated 42.4% of all COVID-19 deaths have been in nursing homes and assisted living facilities (or residential care homes).
To show how disproportionate those deaths are compared to the rest of the country, the report points out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 5.1 million people live in those types of facilities and represent only 1.6% of the total U.S. population.
Yes, 1.6% of the population accounts for 42.4% of all COVID deaths in the U.S. From FREOPP:
Among states reporting nursing home fatalities, death from COVID-19 has struck 0.64% of U.S. residents of nursing homes and residential care facilities. We estimate that 5.1 million Americans over 65 live in nursing homes and residential care facilities; by extrapolating 0.64% across the entire U.S. nursing and residential care home population, we estimate that nursing homes account for 42.4% of COVID-19 fatalities.
The rates are even more disproportionate if you remove New York state’s data, which is an outlier because of the state’s high share of overall coronavirus cases and deaths as well as its data reporting methods.
When New York’s COVID-19 deaths are removed from the equation, nursing homes account for 51.8% of all COVID-19 deaths. More from FREOPP:
This estimate excludes New York State, which is an outlier in terms of its reported share of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. A number of policymakers in New York have alleged that nursing home facilities in that state have been underreporting their COVID-19 fatality figures, possibly because New York State counts as hospital deaths those of nursing home residents who die in a hospital. It could also be that the high number of non-long-term care deaths in New York explain the lower percentage (i.e., a much larger denominator).
What about the rest of the world?
The report noted that the United States’ experience with nursing home COVID-19 deaths is not unique.
A study from the International Long Term Care Policy Network looked at deaths in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, FREOPP said.
According to the international study, 40.8% of reported COVID-19 deaths occurred in nursing homes.
Public policy recommendation
The FREOPP report says that the data shows there are “substantial flaws” in the public policy management of the coronavirus. More attention needs to be paid to COVID-19 infections in nursing homes and among the elderly.
According to the report, “those older than 65 are 26 times as likely to die of COVID-19 than those aged 25 to 54.”
The people at FREOPP recommended that state and local governments reorient policy responses “away from younger and healthier people, and toward the elderly, and especially elderly individuals living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.”