The COVID-19 pandemic caused the skilled nursing occupancy rate to drop by about 7.7% between 2019 and 2020, according to a new report by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. 

The findings were detailed in NIC’s annual Skilled Nursing Data Report released Friday. SNF occupancy rate finished 2020 at 77.4% after ending 2019 at 85%. 

“In addition to many state and local restrictions that took a toll on patient admissions early in the pandemic, COVID-19 significantly impacted skilled nursing operations across the country due to high acuity levels of residents, pandemic-related deaths, as well as fewer elective surgeries at hospitals which resulted in less need for rehab services provided by nursing care properties,” NIC researchers wrote. 

The occupancy figure has risen most months since December 2020 and the COVID vaccine rollout, but what remains to be seen is how fast occupancy will bounce back, investigators speculated.

“Occupancy is very low relative to pre-pandemic levels and cash flow is a concern at some properties,” researchers concluded.