Arizona’s high coronavirus positivity rate could threaten nursing home residents

A person is tested for the COVID-19 Coronavirus Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at Cesar Chavez City Park in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living recently released coronavirus information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The threat of a widespread outbreak of coronavirus in nursing homes is looming, especially in the 33 states with a 5% positivity rate or higher. Arizona’s positivity rate is currently 22.7%, putting them 1st in the U.S. 

Mark Parkinson, president of AHCA/NCAL, stated, “CMS will begin requiring, rather than recommending, that all nursing homes in states with a 5% positivity rate or greater test all nursing home staff each week.” If implemented today, 11,640 nursing homes would be required to conduct such weekly testing. Governors and state health agencies in these 33 states need to take immediate action to protect nursing homes by ensuring facilities have adequate supplies of PPE (including N95 masks), putting pressure on lab companies in their states to expedite test results for our residents and caregivers, and mandating all residents of their state wear masks in public to help reduce the spread of COVID in the surrounding communities.”

Sources: Johns Hopkins University (July 26, 2020) & COVID Tracking Project (July 26, 2020

CMS also released data on July 30, showing the percentage of nursing homes without a one week supply of PPE. This information came from required federal reporting by nursing homes across the country on the current supply of PPE (N95 Masks, Surgical Masks, Gowns). 

“The continued shortage of vital  PPE supplies for nursing homes across the U.S. is a major concern especially for states with recent spikes in new COVID cases,” said Parkinson.

The Arizona Health Care Association provided guidelines for PPE for their facilities. Their guidelines provide resources to contact if supplies run dangerously low. The Center for Disease Control also provides guidelines for nursing homes stating, “Given their congregate nature and resident population served (e.g., older adults often with underlying chronic medical conditions), nursing home populations are at high risk of being affected by respiratory pathogens like COVID-19 and other pathogens.”

Sources: Johns Hopkins University (July 26, 2020) & COVID Tracking Project (July 26, 2020