Data: 42 Percent of US Coronavirus Deaths Are Linked to Nursing Homes, Where Less Than One Percent of Americans Live

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Posted: May 28, 2020 10:15 AM
Data: 42 Percent of US Coronavirus Deaths Are Linked to Nursing Homes, Where Less Than One Percent of Americans Live

The heartbreaking statistic relayed in my headline is not, as some have suggested, an attempt to diminish the tragedy of the tens of thousands of Americans who have died as a result of lethal Coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.  Every human life has value and dignity, and losing so many aging Americans to this virulent disease is gut-wrenching.  The point is not that older lives lost do not matter.  The point is that as we make difficult public policy decisions about public health and reopening the economy, extraordinary efforts must be undertaken to mitigate the deadly impact of isolated hotspots that arise as the virus sweeps through communities that are exclusively populated by the most vulnerable members of our society.  These numbers, released earlier this week, are staggering and important:


Roy later clarified that the actual percentage of Americans living in these facilities is 0.6 percent.  New York leads the nation in the total number of statewide COVID deaths generally, as well as at nursing homes -- but its overall percentage may still look somewhat favorable due to its government's decision to alter the manner in which such deaths are counted.  As the media flocked to cover this bogus story out of Florida (because of course they did), New York's apparent statistical sleight of hand has garnered relatively little attention.  As we've covered, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his team did an extraordinary job of recognizing and addressing COVID's unique threat to nursing homes, achieving impressive and life-saving results thus far.  Florida's population is older and larger than New York's, yet its death toll is roughly one-tenth of the Empire State's.  Thousands more people perished from the virus in New York nursing homes alone than in the entire state of Florida. Health policy expert Avik Roy, who published the tweets embedded above, adds additional insight based on the data:

States like New York, New Jersey, and Michigan actually ordered nursing homes to accept patients with active COVID-19 infections who were being discharged from hospitals. The most charitable interpretation of these orders is that they were designed to ensure that states would not overcrowd their ICUs. But well after hospitalizations peaked, governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo were doubling down on their mandates. As recently as April 23, Cuomo declared that nursing homes “don’t have a right to object” to accepting elderly patients with active COVID infections. “That is the rule and that is the regulation and they have to comply with that.” Only on May 10—after the deaths of nearly 3,000 New York residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities—did Cuomo stand down and partially rescind his order...Contrast the decisions by governors like Cuomo with those of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. In Florida, all nursing home workers were required to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before entering a facility. On March 15, before most states had locked down, DeSantis signed an executive order that banned nursing home visitations from friends and family, and also banned hospitals from discharging SARS-CoV-2-infected patients into long-term care facilities...While it is too late for thousands of nursing home residents who have already died, there is still time to protect the millions who remain, by learning from Florida’s example.

Learning from one's mistakes should not include craven blame shift and purging the public record. This looks very suspicious, in light of the deserved criticism New York's disastrous policies are facing:


I'll leave you with the mixed results of the reopening process thus far. Many of the critics' worst fears and most frightening predictions have failed to materialize -- but we need to keep a careful eye on rising hospitalizations:


These are also hopeful signs:


UPDATE - This framing is very very odd: