In a promising sign for the sector, no new COVID-19 cases were reported in 93% of U.S. skilled nursing facilities for the week ending February 21, according to data available in the NIC Skilled Nursing COVID-19 Tracker
It’s been a year since the coronavirus pandemic first unfolded in the U.S., disproportionately impacting older Americans. Thanks to increasing vaccination rates, many hospitalizations and fatalities have been, and will be, avoided among the population most susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19.
The most recent CMS data compiled by NIC’s Skilled Nursing COVID-19 Tracker show that 93% of skilled nursing facilities reported no new COVID-19 cases for the week ending February 21, 2021, up 28 percentage points from 65% recorded on December 20. The drop in case counts is coincident with more widespread distribution and administration of the vaccines across skilled nursing facilities.
The chart below depicts that for the week ending December 20, 2021, 9.8% of skilled nursing facilities reported 10% or more of their residents tested positive for COVID-19, but on February 21, 2021, only 0.2% reported infections of 10%+. The share of skilled nursing facilities reporting new confirmed cases appears to be declining across all infection rate cohorts.
98% of skilled nursing facilities with less than 50 units reported no new COVID-19 infections for the week ending February 21, 2021, the highest share among all skilled nursing facilities with respect to size. The smallest share of skilled nursing facilities reporting no new COVID-19 infections was among large facilities (150 Units +) at 87%.
Newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 among skilled nursing residents fell to another pandemic record low during the reporting week, down 94% over the last nine weeks since the launch of the Long-Term Care vaccination program – from 32,588 on December 20, 2020 to 1,903 on February 21, 2021. U.S. weekly infections fell 71% over the span of those same nine weeks.
Per-resident rate of new COVID-19 infections within skilled nursing facilities plummeted to a new low point on February 21 (0.20%). Only 1 in 500 residents tested positive for COVID-19 on February 21 compared to 15 in 500 residents on December 20 (3.03%).
As shown below, new cases among residents have fallen faster than new cases among staff since the start of vaccine rollout. For the week ending December 20, new COVID-19 cases among skilled nursing residents were 21% higher than among staff. By February 21, newly confirmed cases among residents were 24% lower than among staff for the first time in months. This speaks to the higher vaccination rates among residents.
As of February 21, 2021, 2.2 million residents living in long term care communities have been fully vaccinated in the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program, according to the CDC. The average vaccination rate in the U.S has recently picked up to two million per day and will likely continue to increase, suggesting that 100 million Americans who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus will likely be fully vaccinated in the next month or two.
In addition to three approved vaccines to fight the virus, the FDA has recently issued first emergency use authorization for a molecular non-prescription at-home COVID test. This self-administered and over-the-counter technology could help significantly with isolating new cases and mitigating the risk of spread of new variants until vaccines are more widely distributed. CUE Health plans to produce over 100,000 over the counter COVID tests per day by summer 2021, according to its co-founder and chief product officer.
Furthermore, recent lab analysis indicate that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the coronavirus. This can only encourage the CDC to ease restrictions on visitation at long term care settings, a long-awaited relief for residents and their loved ones.
Protecting all of America’s seniors and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our role models should continue to be our priority. The older adult generation include heroes—scientists, doctors, nurses—of yesterday, whose contributions to our society allow us today to continue to carry the torch forward and create a better future for ourselves and generations to follow.
To gain in-depth insights and track the week-over-week change rate for new resident cases and fatalities of COVID-19 within skilled nursing facilities at the state and county levels, visit NIC.org. You can also access the Skilled Nursing COVID-19 Tracker along with a rich trove of analysis and insight on the NIC COVID-19 Resource Center.
NIC is committed to provide timely data, analyses and insights that increase transparency and understanding of the sector, especially in this difficult time of COVID-19. We strongly support all actions and efforts that prioritize distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and availability of PPE to protect frontline workers and residents.
About Omar Zahraoui
Omar Zahraoui, Principal at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), is a seniors housing research professional with expertise in providing quantitative analysis and insights on seniors housing & care market data; building new products and reporting capabilities, including dashboards and proformas for clients and internal stakeholders; and implementing new processes and data solutions. Prior to his current role, Zahraoui worked as a data analyst, at Calpine Corporation, supporting the development of new-business strategy initiatives, analyzing sales and financial data, and developing statistical modeling of consumers’ behaviors to drive business performance. Zahraoui holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Management, a Master in Corporate Finance from IAE Lyon School of Management at Jean Moulin Lyon III University in France, and a Master of Science in Management Information Systems and Data Analytics from Pace University.
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