COVID test

Experts are seeing a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, signaling a late-summer jump that could hit nursing homes harder than the general population. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an overall jump in cases among nursing home residents throughout the month of July, although the numbers shifted from week to week. For the week ending July 2, the CDC reported 2,834 cases among facility residents; that number jumped to 3,145 confirmed cases for the week ending July 23. 

“After roughly six, seven months of steady declines, things are starting to tick back up again,” Brendan Jackson, MD, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, told NPR. “We’ve seen the early indicators go up for the past several weeks, and just this week for the first time in a long time we’ve seen hospitalizations tick up as well. This could be the start of a late summer wave.”

Jackson told NPR that the death toll from COVID continues to fall to the lowest numbers since the CDC began tracking, but he added that could reverse if hospitalizations continue to climb. 

A nursing home in Westford, MA, recently reported an outbreak of COVID-19 to the state Department of Public Health, according to Boston 25News. The station noted that Westford House, which has approximately 120 beds, had a sign on its main door requiring masks for entry since “COVID is in the building.”

In Los Angeles County, cases jumped 32% this week, according to public health officials. They noted more new outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities. Eleven outbreak investigations began the week ending July 18. In comparison, one month ago, only four new outbreaks were reported in a week.

Seniors remain at a higher risk for contracting the virus, and experts caution that they should be up-to-date with vaccines and report symptoms quickly. The Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services reports that 63.5% of nursing home residents and 26% of staff are current on COVID-19 vaccines. 

McKnight’s Long-Term Care News recently reported on a new study that found just 18% of COVID cases in nursing homes in 2021 and 2022 were treated with antivirals, such as Paxlovid. More surprising, according to the lead author, was that fewer than half of all facilities — 40% — reported never using antiviral treatments, despite the higher-risk population. 

“This is alarming, as almost all nursing home residents meet the current clinical guidelines to be considered for treatment,” lead author Brian McGarry, PhD, said. 

The medical community does believe another COVID-19 wave could strike in the fall and winter with some projections suggesting a “really bad flu season,” which would presage tens of thousands of COVID deaths, the NPR article reported.