TUESDAY, Aug. 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- COVID-19 cases in U.S. nursing homes rose nearly 80% earlier this summer and the vast majority of them occurred in Sunbelt states, a new study reports.
In the week starting July 26, the nation's nursing homes had 9,715 COVID-19 cases -- up 77% from the week of June 21, when new cases bottomed out at 5,480, according to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).
The latest spike has surpassed the previous peak, recorded May 31, the analysis of updated data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows.
During the last week of July, U.S. nursing homes recorded 1,706 COVID-19 deaths -- nearly 25% more than the first full week of July, when deaths hit a low point.
And the Sunbelt states -- home to thousands of retirees -- were especially hard hit, the report showed. By mid-July, nursing homes across the region accounted for 69% of COVID-19 deaths, compared with 28% the week of May 31, according to the report.
Long-term care facilities account for less than 1% of the U.S. population, but more than 40% of COVID-19 deaths, according to an Associated Press report on the COVID Tracking Project.
"With the recent major spikes of COVID cases in many states across the country, we were very concerned this trend would lead to an increase in cases in nursing homes and, unfortunately, it has," said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the AHCA/NCAL.
"This is especially troubling since many nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are still unable to acquire the personal protective equipment and testing they need to fully combat this virus," he added in a news release.
While shortages of personal protective equipment are a major concern for long-term care facilities, the lack of reliable and rapid-result testing is their main concern.
In a June survey, 87% of nursing homes said it was taking two days or more to get test results for residents and staff, and one in four nursing homes said it was taking five days or longer.
"What we need -- now more than ever -- is for our government leaders and lab companies from the private sector to work together to find a solution to prioritize and expedite the processing of tests for nursing home residents and caregivers," Parkinson said.
AHCA/NCAL represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities that provide care to about 5 million people each year in the United States.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on nursing homes and COVID-19.
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