BERKELEY (CBS SF/AP) – At least a quarter of the COVID-19 deaths in the United States were among nursing home residents, a new report said, a disclosure that came as coronavirus restrictions eased Monday even as U.S. protests against police brutality sparked fears of new outbreaks.
Meanwhile, a state database shows several unreported deaths have occurred at the Elmwood Care Center and Chaparral House.
The data on skilled nursing homes is being compiled by the California Department of Public Health. A disclaimer on the website explains the numbers include some patients who died after being transferred home, or to hospitals. Patients who contracted COVID-19 and died of something else are also included.
A range, rather than the actual number of deaths is used, and both Elmwood and Chaparral had ‘less than 11’ deaths. So far, the city has only officially confirmed one COVID-19 death in Berkeley, and close to 100 infections.
Berkeley has six facilities that provide long-term care to seniors.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 60,000 cases of coronavirus illness among nursing home residents, according to a copy of a letter addressed to the governors and an accompanying chart provided to The Associated Press.
The data was based on reports received from about 80% of the nation’s 15,400 nursing homes as of May 24. But some states with high rates of nursing home deaths appeared to have low levels of response to the survey, intended as a first step toward developing policy changes.
“This data, and anecdotal reports across the country, clearly show that nursing homes have been devastated by the virus,” wrote CDC Director Robert Redfield and CMS Administrator Seema Verma.
The U.S. has seen over 104,000 deaths and nearly 1.8 million infections in the pandemic, both count’s the highest in the world.
And although the first wave of the pandemic may be easing in much of the U.S., that doesn’t mean nursing homes are in any less danger: Experts say in a virus rebound they can again become the stage for tragic scenes of death and despair, as well as a risk for the broader community.
“What is going on in a nursing home can be a barometer for where the virus is,” said Tamara Konetzka, a research professor at the University of Chicago, who specializes in long-term care issues.