Sick elderly person wearing surgical face mask and being cared for by a clinician with stethoscope

Nursing homes in August had the highest number of COVID-10 deaths in a single month since vaccines were rolled out eight months earlier. Skilled nursing facilities reported nearly 1,800 deaths among residents and staff, according to a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Deaths among nursing home residents increased at a faster rate (423%) when compared to staff members (274%), the study found. The jump in fatalities stems from the delta strain spread and is a reversal of the steady progress made in decreasing deaths since the implementation of the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care program, according to investigators. 

“While the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths happened outside of nursing homes in July and August, the high rate of increase within nursing homes indicates that residents and staff in these settings are at risk of death during the Delta surge, and not immune from the most recent wave,” KFF researchers Priya Chidambaram and Rachel Garfield said. 

The analysis also found that COVID-19 cases increased more rapidly in nursing homes than in the community. Nursing home cases grew by 440% (from 9,000 to 48,000) between July and August. At that same time, cases outside of nursing homes increased by 224% and grew from 1.3 million to 4.2 million. 

Chidambaram and Garfield said the research shows that the federal government’s recent approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine booster could be the answer needed to decrease the rise in cases and deaths.

“Vaccines coupled with boosters may reverse the recent trend of rising cases and deaths within nursing homes, though ongoing spread in the community continues to have an impact on residents and staff,” the two concluded.