COVID-19 deaths in long-term care centers are declining in the U.S., but the upheaval in elder care may be just getting started.
Facilities for the elderly reported 4,470 COVID deaths the week of Feb. 11, the lowest since December. In total, they’ve seen more than a third of U.S. deaths though less than 1 percent of the population lives in them, according to COVID Tracking Project data.
In about a dozen states, deaths in long-term care facilities have made up at least half the death toll. In New Hampshire, where the ratio was the highest, the share was 71 percent. Weekly cases have fallen from a mid-December peak, and deaths followed a similar, slightly delayed trajectory.
There have been 302 outbreaks in facilities during the past week.
Occupancy in old-age homes is falling as residents die and families avoid moving loved ones into places that can act as COVID-19 tinderboxes. Meanwhile, remaining residents require added staffing, testing and protective gear, making them more expensive to care for.
That’s translated to a financial crisis for an industry that will need to serve a growing portion of the American population for years following COVID-19. Facilities are projected to lose $94 billion from the pandemic by the end of 2021, according to an analysis from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.
Without financial assistance, more than 1,600 nursing homes could close this year, outstripping the declines of previous years and potentially displacing tens of thousands of residents, the groups said.
Caring for the elderly properly has become a burning political issue. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing scrutiny over his administration’s withholding data that gave a full picture of nursing-home deaths. On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio demanded an investigation.
The U.S. posted 56,312 new cases overall on Tuesday, bringing the seven-day average to 81,725, according to the COVID Tracking Project. There have been at least 488,295 deaths overall, Johns Hopkins data show.
According to COVID Tracking Project data:
The number of people currently hospitalized with the virus is down or flat from a week earlier in all states but North Dakota and Alaska.
New York had the most patients hospitalized with COVID-19 per capita, at 340 per million.