New industry data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics details how COVID-19 affected assisted living communities across the country during the height of the pandemic. 

The NCHS on Wednesday released preliminary figures related to residential care communities (assisted living) from the 2020 National Post-acute and Long-term Care Study, or NPALS. Data on long-term care is collected every two years for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

The results cover communities’ experiences of COVID-19 from January 2020 through March 2021. During that time, the sector experienced 168,000 COVID-19 cases among residents, 24% of which resulted in hospitalization and 18% in deaths, investigators found. 

Shortages, infection control and telehealth

The findings give an idea of what assisted living communities faced in terms of pandemic shortages. Fully 40% reported that they lacked N95 masks, eye protection and gloves at some point since January 2020.

The investigation also provides some insight into how communities practiced prevention, response, or management of COVID-19 infections from January 2020 through March 2021. More than 80% screened for COVID-19 symptoms daily and limited communal dining and recreational activities in common areas, the researchers reported. Fully 67% notified family members of cases within 24 hours. 

When infections arose, a large proportion of communities made use of remote clinical care. About 40% used telehealth or telemedicine visits to assess, diagnose, monitor, or treat residents with presumed positive or confirmed COVID-19 infections. And more 34% did so using telephone or audio-only calls.

This and other NPALS assisted living data includes breakdowns by community size, ownership (nonprofit and for-profit), chain status, geographic region and metropolitan statistical area. The data are subject to change after the release of the final 2020 NPALS data file, to be updated in 2022. The information is not available from other data systems, according to NCHS.

More details of the study results can be found at McKnight’s Senior Living.