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Posted 04/07/2020

How public health failed nursing homes

How public health failed nursing homes

The unfolding tragedy in American nursing homes, where patients are dying in clusters, is another consequence of the coronavirus testing debacle.

While America wasn’t looking, family visitors, staff and other health professionals unknowingly brought the virus into long-term care facilities, spreading it among the population least likely to withstand it.

On top of that, the shortages of protective gear for health workers exacerbated the situation because nursing homes, hospices and other outpatient settings have a tough time getting scarce equipment like masks and gowns, provider groups said. 

This combination of lack of preparedness, inadequate testing capacity and misunderstanding of how the virus could spread seeded death in scores of nursing homes across the country, where patients are not only dying quickly, but often without family and loved ones at their side. Nationally, at least 400 long-term care facilities had at least one resident infected as of one week ago, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said. That’s likely an undercount. The CDC hasn’t been formally tracking the numbers of homes, nor the number of people infected in them.

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