Slow-but-steady increases in nursing home occupancy providers had reported over the last several months reversed course for many operators between August and September, according to new survey results released Thursday by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. 

NIC’s latest executive survey reported that 40% of skilled nursing and seniors housing organizations reported that occupancy declined across their property portfolios between Aug. 9 and Sept. 6. 

Additionally, 20% of those providers reported a decline in occupancy of three percentage points or more. 

The findings come after NIC in August reported that average occupancy for skilled nursing operators nationwide rose for the fourth straight month to reach 73.4%.

The decrease was presumed to be due to the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, particularly among the unvaccinated, NIC Senior Principal Lana Peck suggested. 

Findings also showed that roughly 30% to 40% of organizations reported the pace of move-ins had accelerated within the 30 days prior to the survey. That’s compared to a roughly 55% and 60% rate seen between July and August. 

“Whether or not the pattern of declining occupancy rates will continue to trend is uncertain until the delta variant spread is muted by increasing vaccinations and natural immunity from prior infection,” Peck wrote.