COVID-19 Hits Nursing Homes In Shocking Numbers 

In the coronavirus pandemic, no population has been hit harder than elderly and at-risk residents in nursing homes. Currently over 2 million Americans live in 15,600 nursing homes across the country. While many of us have trusted these nursing homes to provide adequate care and treatment for our loved ones, they have often failed to provide proper care and screening during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Coronavirus in Nursing Homes — May 2020 Data

  • May 1, 2020: By this date, there are already 16,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in senior care facilities, assisted living facilities, retirement and rehabilitation facilities across the United States, not counting pending and unresolved cases. 
  • May 19, 2020: Just two weeks later, the number explodes to 30,130 confirmed deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities across 35 states. This number represents one-third (more than 30%) of all COVID-19 deaths to date in the United States.
  • May 22, 2020: The proportion of nursing home deaths in the crisis increases, now accounting for 42% of all US deaths from COVID-19. 

In a recent New York Times article published May 9, 2020, it was reported that “In 14 states, the number of residents and workers [in assisted care facilities] who have died accounts for more than half of all deaths from the virus.” 

In total, more than 150,000 people have become infected at nursing home facilities, and at least 28,000 residents and workers have died as a direct result of coronavirus in the nursing home environment. The infection rate is high, but the death rate is even higher, with 35% of all deaths in the United States traced to nursing home facilities. 

This is a big problem. Note that almost 70% of these nursing homes are run by for-profit companies, with another 57% run by chain companies. These operators have a legal responsibility to care for and adequately screen their residents, especially during the coronavirus crisis.

Unfortunately, these nursing homes are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps due to improper practices and procedures, and that the problem may even be worse than the numbers show for now.

Problems with accurate reporting of COVID-19 deaths

The confirmed numbers we have are already shocking, but the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes is likely worse than is being reported. Many facilities and state governments are not accurately reporting their coronavirus numbers to the media or national government. 

This may be due to privacy concerns, lack of reporting from local nursing home facilities, or to avoid responsibility wrongful death lawsuits. 

Some states are reporting both COVID-19 related cases and deaths, including: Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey and South Carolina.  

However, some states are reporting COVID-19 related cases but not deaths, including: California, Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio.

The accuracy of reports may vary from state to state and even within a city’s jurisdiction. 

Currently, nursing home and long-care facilities in Northeastern states appear to be the hardest hit, as the map shows below:

However, the situation will change as the pandemic continues to develop in the United States and it is important to keep on guard in our home state of Nevada, where we are seeing an increasing number of coronavirus-related deaths in local facilities. 

Why Nursing Homes Are At Highest Risk

Residents of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, are at the greatest risk for coronavirus deaths and complications. There are a number of reasons why: 

  • Extended time spent inside the nursing home
  • High density of people (staff & residents in the facility)
  • Chronic understaffing issues 
  • Negligent hiring and training practices
  • Poor understanding of coronavirus situation and social distancing measures
  • Neglect & abuse issues in nursing homes

According to the CDC, the fatality rate for COVID-19 is highest for patients 85 and older, ranging from 10% to 27%. The second highest fatality rate is for patients 65 to 84, ranging from 3% to 11%. Complications and fatality rates are linked to patients with pre-existing conditions and underlying risk factors. 

As staff move from room to room to treat residents, or if management fails to put proper social distancing measures in place for residents and visiting guests, a single case of COVID-19 can quickly spread throughout a facility without notice. It can take anywhere from 2-14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear even in elderly residents, so that patients may not exhibit any signs until the virus has already taken over the entire population. 

Any facility’s management and staff should be aware of these statistics and thus arranged adequate care for their resident populations, however the pandemic has continued to wreak havoc on these long-term care and nursing homes. 

Nursing Home Industry Fights Against COVID-19 Lawsuits

Remember the statistic, that almost 70% of these nursing homes are run by for-profit companies?

This industry, while given the responsibility to care for our elderly and at-risk loved ones, is now taking drastic actions to protect themselves from liability and lawsuits related to the coronavirus. Even in situations where the facility may be at clear fault for the wrongful death or suffering of a patient, they may be protected by these immunities when they would otherwise be held legally and financially responsible.

Already, six states have pushed to provide these facilities some level of immunity from coronavirus lawsuits:

  • Massachusetts and New York already have laws that offer immunity to these long-term care facilities.
  • The state Governors of Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan and New Jersey currently have executive orders that block coronavirus lawsuits.

These types of lawsuits would otherwise be valid under wrongful death or personal injury law. 

Fortunately, there is currently no law or executive order in Nevada that blocks lawsuits filed against a nursing home or similar assisted living facilities, allowing families to pursue justice and compensation for their affected loved ones. 

If you suspect or have confirmed that a loved one has suffered or died as a result of coronavirus in a nursing home, seek legal advice immediately. Call us today at 702-220-7128 for a free consultation and get the most experienced personal injury attorneys in Las Vegas on your side. Our compassionate and informed team can help you seek the information and support you need during this difficult situation.