Nurse applying vaccine on patient's arm wearing face mask

Researchers are stressing the need to address systemic racial disparities in nursing homes after a new study showed facilities with predominantly minority populations suffered more COVID illnesses and deaths. 

“The increasing racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 outcomes documented in our study can serve as an important benchmark for future studies that continue to track nursing-home COVID-19 outcomes as the pandemic evolves,” wrote corresponding author Yui Li, with the University of Rochester. 

Li and his team’s analysis looked at data from more than 200 Connecticut nursing homes over a 10-week span. Results showed that there were 6.1 average COVID cases per facility at nursing homes with low proportions of minority during the first week of the study. That’s compared to an average of 11.7 cases per facility for providers with a majority of minority residents. 

By week 10, the corresponding figures increased to 26.7 and 58.5 cases per facility, respectively. 

Weekly COVID deaths were also higher for nursing homes with more minorities. The analysis also found that facilities with high proportions of minority residents had a fatality rate 117% higher when compared to its counterparts. 

“Racial and ethnic disparities in nursing home outcomes had been widely reported before the COVID-19 pandemic. These disparities are largely due to system-level inequalities and segregation of care in that older residents of color are disproportionately concentrated in facilities that are located in marginalized communities, have limited resources, and provide poor resident care,” the researchers wrote.

It’s “imperative” future federal, state and local health officials couple their efforts to fight the pandemic to redress enduring disparities in health outcomes, they argued. 

“It is also critical that concrete efforts are made to track disparities in COVID-19 outcomes at the national level and to determine the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of individual pandemic response measures on disparity reductions in the future,” they concluded. 

Full findings were published Wednesday in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.