Posted 04/07/2020

Professor suggests moving some nursing home residents out and increasing surveillance

Professor suggests moving some nursing home residents out and increasing surveillance

This is part of our Coronavirus Update series in which Harvard specialists in epidemiology, infectious disease, economics, politics, and other disciplines offer insights into what the latest developments in the COVID-19 outbreak may bring.

AHarvard epidemiologist is warning that nursing homes, through no fault of their own, may no longer be the best place to house vulnerable elderly patients.

Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and its Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, said Friday that he believes the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is more transmissible than previously thought. It has been difficult to keep it from spreading in a number of settings, including hospitals, cruise ships, and nursing homes — in Massachusetts alone, some 102 nursing homes had reported 551 cases by Sunday afternoon, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  Even with current restrictions on visitors, he said, employees regularly moving in and out of the facilities means it’s likely that additional cases will occur.

“I do think as many people as we can get out of these homes, [it] is probably better,” said Mina, also a Chan School associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases and associate medical director in clinical microbiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Pathology Department. “I think that this is an extraordinarily transmissible virus. I think it’s more transmissible than we recognize and actually preventing it from spreading within nursing homes is an extraordinary feat.”

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