Coronavirus & Nursing Homes — Protecting Nursing Homes

Policy

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Home-care nurse Flora Ajayi is thanked by a client’s daughter as she departs from a home during the coronavirus outbreak, New York City, April 22, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The Washington Post reports that nursing homes may account for a majority of all COVID-19 deaths: 

States are still collecting data, but so far six have reported that residents of nursing homes accounted for more than half their deaths, according to analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The numbers are murky in part because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t released details on how many deaths were among nursing home residents. 

Some states, such as Wisconsin, have begun testing all nursing home residents and employees. It makes sense to test employees as frequently as possible, but that likely won’t entirely solve the problem. The rapid tests have a 15 percent false-negative rate, and those infected may be contagious during the two days before symptoms appear. 

Given how deadly the virus has been in nursing homes, wouldn’t it make sense to hire a nursing-home workforce that can isolate outside the workplace (at least until a more accurate rapid test is available)?

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Nursing-homes would likely have to offer a sizable premium (subsidized by the government) to attract enough employees who would be willing and able to isolate themselves, but wouldn’t the cost be small compared to what the amount the government has already spent responding to the pandemic and lost in tax revenue?

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