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Expand chart
Data: FREOPP.org; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The structural issues that have plagued U.S. nursing homes for years will make it difficult for them to prevent coronavirus infections and deaths, even though we now understand the high-risk nature of the facilities.

Driving the news: Within the 80% of nursing homes that have reported coronavirus data to the federal government, nearly 26,000 residents died, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced yesterday.

The big picture: Older people are particularly vulnerable to the virus, and nursing homes became devastating outbreak sites right away.

  • And the nursing home industry has long been under scrutiny for its problems with infection control.

Between the lines: Experts say that nursing homes need to be extra vigilant about testing staff and residents, and then isolating patients who do get the virus.

  • That means keeping coronavirus patients out of nursing homes to begin with, which some states failed to do early on when patients were sent from hospitals to recover in nursing homes.
  • But it also means having strict protocols for residents who become infected.

Yes, but: That's when nursing homes' long-standing problems present themselves once again.

  • The physical structure of the nursing home becomes very important, including details about things like shared bathrooms, where the nurses' station is, and how air circulates through the building, David Grabowski, a Harvard professor who studies post-acute care, told me.
  • "Some facilities have tried to set up [coronavirus] units or wings or floors," he said. "Sometimes that’s doable based on the numbers and the layout, and sometimes it’s not.”

It's also important to dedicate specific staff to each population — coronavirus patients and non-infected patients. But nursing homes were suffering from staff shortages long before the pandemic hit.

  • “I don’t know how many nursing homes are doing that well to have dedicated staff for covid versus non-covid patients," Grabowski said. He added that most nursing homes also don't have enough personal protective equipment for their workers.

The bottom line: We've certainly learned from our mistakes in terms of how to protect nursing home residents from the coronavirus. The question is whether we'll be able to effectively apply those lessons to prevent future outbreaks.

Go deeper: Taking care of coronavirus patients after they leave the hospital

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Sep 10, 2020 - Health

Young adults aren't all safe from the virus

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Young adults, especially those with pre-existing conditions, can still have very serious cases of the coronavirus, a new study published yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine confirms.

Why it matters: As thousands of college students around the country catch the virus, some of them are bound to require hospitalization and, tragically, perhaps even die in the coming weeks.

Updated Jan 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.

Coronavirus infections fell by nearly 13% last week

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections fell by almost 13% over the past week — a significant improvement.

Why it matters: Things are moving in the right direction again after a brief plateau, and getting the virus under control now will give the U.S. a much better shot at a safe autumn.