Coronavirus

Almost half of Maine’s COVID-19 deaths occurred in nursing homes

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According to data provided by the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 6, 44.5% of Maine’s 860 recorded deaths from COVID-19 occurred in long-term care facilities. That number includes residents and staff.

With data starting in April 2020, the Maine CDC recorded 1,879 cases of COVID-19 among long-term care facility staff and 2,815 cases among long-term care facility residents. It also recorded 383 deaths. 

The COVID-19 pandemic was deadly for nursing homes across the nation. 

According to a report recently released by the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services, 2 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes were either diagnosed with COVID-19 in 2020 or suspected of having COVID-19. Almost 1,000 more beneficiaries died in April 2020 than in April 2019 and mortality in 2020 increased by 5% over the previous year, from 17% in 2019 to 22% in 2020. 

COVID-19 has proved deadlier for individuals who fall into older age demographics. In Maine, just 4.2% of COVID-29 cases occurred in those aged 80 or above. But, as of July 7, that age category accounts for 55.3% of deaths. Only 5.3% of cases occurred in people in their 70s, but that age category accounts for 25.9% of deaths. People under the age of 40 make up just 3.5% of mortalities. 

But the higher rate of fatalities among elder residents of the state alone does not explain why long-term care facilities account for nearly half of Maine’s recorded COVID-19 deaths.

In spring of 2021, Maine’s nursing homes had some of the highest rates of infection in the nation. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), as late as May, Maine’s nursing homes were among the deadliest and most infectious in the nation. For the week ending May 2, Maine had the highest rate of COVID-19 infections among nursing home residents, marking the fourth time in six weeks. At the same time, Maine had the sixth highest rate in the nation for deaths among nursing home residents.

Data shows Maine’s long-term care facilities experienced both staff and personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data from January 2021 compiled by AARP, nursing home staff made up 3% of COVID-19 cases in Maine. The state with the leading rate was 3.9%. In the same report, in the four weeks leading up to December 20, 2020, Maine nursing homes led the nation for the number of nursing homes that did not have enough N95 masks to last a week. The report measured 5 categories of PPE: N95 masks, surgical masks, eye protection, gowns and gloves. Maine had the highest rate in the nation, 54.5%, of nursing homes with shortages of all five PPE categories.

In the same report, the rate of Maine’s nursing homes with shortages of nurses, aides, and nurses aides, was also above the national average. According to data from the CMS compiled by ProPublica, as of May 2021, infection-related deficiencies had been found in 60 of 93 nursing homes in the state sometime during their last three inspections.

The rate of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes has improved. As of July 7, the Maine CDC recorded 43 new cases of COVID-19 across the entire state. Nursing home vaccination rates among staff and residents is the third highest in the nation. But Maine ranks 13th in the nation for workers with completed vaccinations. 

About Katherine Revello

Katherine Revello is a reporter for The Maine Wire. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Reason, The Washington Examiner, and various other publications. Got news tips? Contact Katherine at krevello@mainepolicy.org.

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