John O’Connor


The imminent arrival of several anti-COVID vaccines may be the best news we get this year. But that hardly means new challenges are off the grid.

In fact, one of the more ominous recent developments threatens to be a real doozy: employees opting to picket rather than punch in.

Last week near Chicago, for example, nearly 700 nursing home workers walked off the job.  Workers at 11 facilities operated by Infinity Healthcare Management began the strike last Monday morning (Nov. 23).

Those on strike told reporters they simply don’t feel safe. And it’s hard to blame them. The operator in question has been linked to more than 200 COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths this year. So far.

To be sure, those are sobering numbers. But they are likely to become less remarkable in the coming months.

Sadly, as the nation cools down, it appears the pandemic is heating up. In the first week of November, more than 1,300 nursing homes reported at least three confirmed COVID-19 cases. That’s the most ever. But it probably won’t be in the record books for long.

As these numbers mount, so too will the challenge of hiring and keeping adequate staff. In its own way, this second problem may be just as difficult to manage as a once-in-a-century pandemic. For unlike COVID-19, long-term care’s staffing situation hardly seems to be inching toward a fix.

 John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s