Graphic chart showing cases of COVID-19 rising in tandem in the community and nursing homes
Trends in nursing homes COVID cases have mirrored incidence in the community. Graphic courtesy of AHCA/NCAL.

Nursing homes may face a third wave of coronavirus infections as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the nation, according to a new analysis by the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living.

New cases in nursing homes dropped significantly in August and early September following a summer spike driven by outbreaks in the Sunbelt states, the AHCA reported. But weekly case counts began another uptick in late September, corresponding with a growing number of infections in the general population, the industry advocate announced Monday. 

A steady overall decrease in COVID-19-related resident deaths since May may be at risk of reversal if community cases continue their rise, AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson said.

AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson

Parkinson is calling for a replenished federal COVID-19 relief package before Congress leaves town for the November elections. Without this help, the challenges of handling COVID-19 plus flu season could easily overwhelm not only nursing homes, but federal and state agencies as well, he said. Most of the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund provided by the CARES Act in April already has been distributed, he noted.

“Without adequate funding and resources, the U.S. will repeat the same mistakes made during the initial outbreak last spring and the major spike over the summer,” Parkinson said. “The number one factor in keeping COVID out of our nursing homes — so we can protect our vulnerable population — is reducing the level of the virus in the surrounding community,” he added.

COVID-19 prevalence in a surrounding community is the top factor contributing to transmission to residents, studies have shown.

The report’s data comes from Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.