Covid Nursing Homes

March 30, 2021

Protecting The Vulnerable

At the center of case counts and controversy, America’s nursing homes remain a critical piece of the puzzle in the COVID-19 pandemic.

What to Know & Why It Matters


  • 3.4M+ Americans live or work in the nation’s 44,500+ nursing homes and residential care communities – that’s roughly 1% of the U.S. population.
  • At least 20% of deaths have taken place in nursing homes & long-term care facilities. This doesn’t include people who lived/worked at the facilities and died in hospitals. Overall: An estimated 34% of U.S. deaths are linked to these facilities.

Feb 2020: First Nursing Home Outbreak

One of the first major U.S. outbreaks took place at a Washington nursing home, which state was also home to the first death attributed to COVID-19 in the U.S.

  • Where: Life Care Center (Kirkland, WA).
  • When: Feb. 19, 2020 – first known case; first outbreak Feb. 28-March 30.
  • What: 155+ cases among residents & staff; at least 46 linked deaths in 2020.

Something To Consider:

  • Older adults are not more susceptible to COVID, but they are more prone to severe cases which may result in hospitalization or death. At least 80% of U.S. COVID-19 deaths occurred in people age 65 or older.
  • COVID is more likely to spread in congregate settings like nursing homes, where people live and work in close contact and social distancing is more challenging.


  • Nursing homes, subject to federal guidelines and state rules, confronted a lack of COVID-19 preparedness.
  • Many states & facilities struggled with mitigation efforts such as testing & whether to accept COVID patients from hospitals. New York & other states ordered nursing homes to accept COVID patients, a controversial policy some say freed-up hospital resources but led to further infections and deaths.

Feb 2021: Latest Data

  • Both the rate of cases AND deaths among nursing home residents AND staff have fallen significantly.
  • Since Dec., the rate of cases among both residents and staff has decreased by over 90%.
  • Since Dec., the rate of death among residents has dropped by nearly 75%.
  • Over 4.6M workers & residents have received at least one vaccine dose since distribution began in December.

“The question is, are they going down because of the vaccine, or are they going down because we’re on the backside of the outbreak. … It’s a combination of both.” Dr. David Gifford, American Health Care Assn.’s chief medical officer, on how to interpret recent nursing home amid declines in cases & deaths nationwide.

Informed & Inspired: SmartHER about COVID-19 with Dr. Jamie Rutland

COVID-19: Timeline

8 months of COVID-19 in America

by Jenna Lee,