Shot of a sickly senior woman blowing her nose with a tissue while sitting on a sofa ta home

The U.S. COVID-19 weekly average case count has fallen by 24% as of Jan. 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But aging services providers would be wise to remain on guard against the virus, officials say.

The latest stats are positive. Most COVID-19 infection metrics are down overall, including cases and hospitalizations, following a pre-holiday uptick, the New York Times’ data tracker has reported. In addition, the seven-day overall average shows 565 new deaths per day due to COVID-19, down 6% from the prior week, according to an analysis of federal data by CIDRAP, the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota. 

There also has been a 44% decrease in ED visits for COVID-19 in the senior age group between Dec. 31 and Jan. 14, the CDC’s new tracker for emergency department visits reveals. 

Hospitalizations rising for seniors?

The newest numbers may signal an improving trend, but aging services providers would do well to remain vigilant, federal health officials said last week. Older adults have accounted for a rising percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations. About 70% of new daily hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients were adults aged 60 years or older, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told LeadingAge members in a Jan. 17 call.

The most reliable measure of cases may be the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, since hospitals test consistently, the New York Times tracker notes. CIDRAP has reported that hospitalizations for COVID-19 may actually be rising among adults aged 65 and older rather than falling, for example. Its data came from the CDC’s new RESP-NET dashboard

New test locator

In the meantime, the federal government continues to implore Americans not only to keep up with their COVID-19 vaccinations, but also to continue to seek testing and treatment in order to reduce susceptibility to severe disease and to reduce the spread of the disease. 

As part of that push, the CDC on Tuesday launched a COVID-19 test locator website for consumers as part of its campaign to increase access to testing in at-risk communities. 

And industry advocate LeadingAge in early January began offering free test kits to long-term care providers in all care settings and communities as part of its collaboration with federal health agencies. 

Vast undercount of COVID deaths

In related news, the uncertainty of the early pandemic may have led to a significant undercount of COVID-19-related deaths, a new analysis has found. Although recorded data show that 1.1 million people have died from the COVID-19 in the United States, that number does not account for more than 268,000 people who died of the disease during the pandemic’s first two years. 

In these cases, death certificates recorded during the pandemic’s first two years listed different causes, reported the researchers, from Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania.

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