Video Documents Nursing Home Tragedy

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When COVID-19 started spreading through nursing homes last spring, the United States had no first-hand experience battling a coronavirus.

That’s a fair point but an inadequate explanation for a tragedy in which more than 100,000 nursing home residents and staff to date have died of COVID-related causes.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Governments either wouldn’t or couldn’t provide enough personal protective equipment, forcing the certified nursing assistants to don garbage bags and recycle masks. A shortage of tests limited the ability to detect asymptomatic cases and contain outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control, prior to the pandemic, had documented poor infection control practices. This made nursing homes a petri dish for spreading the virus. Acute staffing shortages compounded the dangers.

This video by AARP is a chronology of what went wrong. It’s a horror story of panic, chaos, and blunders. It’s also a start on understanding how we can do better in the future to protect our most vulnerable population – the elderly.

“We need to continue to raise alarms and demand action to prevent anything like this from happening again,” said Bill Sweeney, a senior vice president of AARP.  AARP is a corporate partner of the Center for Retirement Research, which sponsors this blog.

Read our blog posts in our ongoing coverage of COVID-19.

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“When COVID-19 started spreading through nursing homes last spring, the United States had no first-hand experience battling a coronavirus.”

I am not a doctor, or at least not a medical doctor. But I knew at the time that discharging COVID infected patients from hospital to nursing homes was going to end badly. A sensible strategy would have been to segregate both staff and carers. There were plenty of empty hotels that could have been repurposed. Fairly obviously, the “caring professions” didn’t really care.

K Miles

The case fatality rates in adult living facilities is unacceptable. The 2009 Pandemic plan had the correct procedures spelled out. The book was discarded and a vain attempt to recreate the correct response allowed many casualties among residents and caregivers alike. Three million residents and caregivers delivered over 40% of all deaths, tragedy of epic proportions for such a small slice of our nation with an overall population over 326 million.

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