Could Arizona Soon See Another Wave Of COVID-19 Infections In Nursing Homes?

Published: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 - 11:47am
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 1:12pm

The industry group that represents long-term care across the country is warning of an uptick in coronavirus cases in nursing homes. Arizona could soon see another spike in cases.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living released a report showing a 43% increase in new cases, mostly in the Midwest. Dave Voepel is the CEO of the Arizona Health Care Association. He says some nursing homes are starting to see a rise in cases. 

"Once community spread increases, so do the cases within the facilities, because folks work and live, they live in the community, and then they work in the facility, obviously. And they're asymptomatic, and they bring it into the facility unknowingly, and it spreads from there," he said.

According to the data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Haven of Lakeside, near the town of Show Low, saw 41 cases COVID-19 in residents in a single week. That appeared to be unusually high compared to other nursing homes for the week ending Oct. 18. 

Voepel said that Arizona is in the moderate or yellow stage of spread and that means nursing homes must test staff weekly. And that can be a pricey proposition, he said. Many nursing homes are facing financial hardships due to the unplanned costs of the coronavirus pandemic.

Voepel recently told KJZZ that testing, personal protective equipment and staffing have stretched many long-term care facilities. Still, facilities that are regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid received hundreds of thousands of dollars in CARES Act funding, while many assisted living facilities, which are not regulated by the federal government, received very little in the form of dollars and vital personal protective equipment.

Despite an uptick in cases, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would distribute $333 million in first round performance payments to over 10,000 nursing homes, including 104 in Arizona. According to a press release, the program is one way the Trump administration is working with nursing homes to establish and maintain high standards for infection control and reduced mortality. 

Nursing homes were hit especially hard during the first and second waves of COVID-19. More than 61,700 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19, nationwide.

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