Nursing homes serve a vital purpose — to care for the elderly and sick — but as states battle the coronavirus pandemic they’ve become a dangerous place for loved ones. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said people should reconsider sending their family members to that type of facility for now.
“We’ve tried everything to keep it out of a nursing home, but it’s virtually impossible,” he said. “Now is not the best time to put your mother in a nursing home.”
Senior-care facilities house some of the most vulnerable members of society. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this year elderly and immunocompromised people should stay home as much as possible, and avoid physical contact with others as often as they can. These groups are at a higher risk of complications after becoming infected, or worse, preliminary data have shown.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country are taking measures to prevent an outbreak. Many have locked down their centers and are no longer allowing visitors to enter. Families are trying to stay in touch with loved ones by visiting them at their windows, calling or video chatting when those services are available.
Since the first few U.S. cases in mid-February, about a fifth of the coronavirus deaths in this country have been linked to nursing homes, according to a New York Times report. The figure refers to people who were living in or connected to these facilities. Another 36,500 residents and employees have become infected during the same time frame, the report found.
Combating the coronavirus in these senior-focused centers has proven difficult. Many facilities, along with medical centers across the nation, say they do not have the proper gear to care for residents and protect employees. States and nursing homes are pleading for more high-grade medical masks, such as N95 masks, medical gowns and personal protective equipment (PPE).
An outbreak in a Washington state nursing home proved how deadly the virus can be to the elderly. Within a month of the initial case at the facility, at least 26 people died and dozens more were infected.
The CDC advised Americans to disinfect high-touch areas, like doorknobs and smartphones, and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. More testing sites are being rolled out in the U.S., the Trump administration said, and medical workers and the elderly will be first priority for screening.
Originally Published on MarketWatch
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