Staffing shortages continue to be a serious concern and a contributing factor driving the high number of cases and fatalities across the four regions. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides up-to-date information on the incidence of COVID-19 cases among nursing facilities as well as fatality statistics associated with COVID-19. The NIC Skilled Nursing COVID-19 Tracker (Tracker) was recently updated to include fatality counts. This is the fourth sorting metric available in the Tracker. The other sorting options include same-store occupancy (CMS data), new COVID-19 confirmed cases as a share of residents, and new COVID-19 confirmed cases per same store facilities. Data for November 29 showed that Midwest properties continued to report high numbers of new COVID cases: 6,574 among staff/personnel and 6,663 new residents’ cases within 4,104 facilities. This accounted for over 40% of overall new cases and was equivalent to 2.65% rate of newly confirmed cases among residents. This was the highest rate recorded across all four U.S. regions since CMS began reporting nursing homes COVID-19 data in late May. The South reported the second highest rate at 1.53%, followed by the Northeast (1.22%), and West (1.01%).
“The pace of move-ins continued to be sluggish in Wave 17 with more survey respondents reporting declines in occupancy rates than increases in occupancy for each of the four care segments. Fewer organizations cited stronger resident demand as a factor influencing the pace of move-ins. Comments by survey respondents added color to the key survey findings: several leaders of their organizations cited rising COVID-19 cases among residents and staff in some properties resulting in stress in containing outbreaks and maintaining staffing levels amid wage growth and hazard pay challenges. While some operators were eagerly anticipating the arrival of the vaccine, others expressed frustration with new slowdowns in the turnaround times for receiving COVID-19 lab test results.”
Two educational sessions at NIC Fall Conference address the sales challenge. As an effective vaccine for COVID-19 rolls out, seniors housing operators and owners are hopeful that sales will get a big boost in early 2021. But until then, they still face a challenging marketing landscape as the virus continues to spread amid renewed lockdowns and restrictions.
Senior living providers eagerly await FDA approval of a COVID-19 vaccine and are preparing the logistical plans needed to ensure a fast and efficient process to vaccinate residents. In the meantime, robust testing remains the most effective strategy for protecting residents and staff from widespread infection. To better understand current testing strategies and how they have adapted over time, I spoke with Ed Ward, Vice President of Operations, Kisco Senior Living to learn more about their innovative testing program.