Facilities with higher Five-star ratings for nurse staffing were less likely to have COVID-19 cases when compared with lower-rated providers, according to a new research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Monday. 

The study also found that there was no significant case difference between high-performing and low-performing nursing homes when comparing their health inspection and quality measure ratings. 

“These findings suggest that poorly resourced NHs with nurse staffing shortages may be more susceptible to the spread of COVID-19,” the researchers wrote. 

“Although guidance on best practices on infection control are important, which has been the primary strategy used by [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] to date, policies that provide immediate staffing support may be more effective at mitigating the spread of COVID-19,” they added. 

Investigators used COVID-19 data from about 4,200 nursing homes, between Jan. 1 and June 30, from eight state health departments for the study. The facility data then were linked with CMS’ Nursing Home Compare website. They also grouped nursing homes in three categories: facilities with 10 or fewer coronavirus cases, those with 11 to 30 cases, and those with more than 30 cases. 

Full findings for the research letter can be found here.

Lower staffing at nursing homes could be a key indicator for COVID-19 outcomes, a recent University of Chicago analysis also found. The study revealed that facilities with more nurse aide hours and total training hours had lower odds of experiencing a coronavirus outbreak and fewer deaths.