By Suzanne Potter, California News Service
December 2, 2020 (Sacramento) - A new report pinpoints why COVID-19 spread so fast this summer in California nursing homes.
The study found skilled nursing facilities that meet recommended staffing levels for Registered Nurses had half the infections compared to those that don't meet the standards. And the novel coronavirus infection rates are three times higher at facilities with large numbers of African-American patients.
That's according to Kristof Stremekis, director of market analysis and insight with the California Health Care Foundation, which commissioned the report.
"Black and Latinx people in California are disproportionately impacted by this virus," said Stremekis. "And we need to make sure that those facilities which are serving Black and Latinx patients have the resources that they need to keep people safe."
The report says the risk factors have changed over time. In May, the data showed for-profit nursing homes had infection rates five to six times higher than nonprofit or government-owned facilities.
But by August, other risk factors took precedence, with higher rates seen among male patients and people over age 85.
The report recommends the state strengthen oversight of nursing-care facilities and require higher staffing levels. Stremekis said as vaccines become available, the data will guide decisions on where to deploy resources first.
"It would allow us to prioritize things like the distribution of PPE, like distribution of the vaccine, to get it to folks who need it the most," said Stremekis.
From January to mid-November, almost 30,000 people in California nursing homes contracted the virus, and more than 4,800 nursing-home residents have died.
AARP has many resources online for families worried about the novel coronavirus, including a list of questions to ask if your loved one is in a nursing home. You can find that and more online, at 'aarp.org/coronavirus.'