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How to Prepare Nursing Homes for the Next Coronavirus Wave

Betsy McCaughey in the Wall Street Journal
By Betsy McCaughey | May 27, 2020

Nursing-home residents make up less than 1% of the U.S. population, but in many states they account for half of all Covid-19 deaths. In some states it’s higher, such as Minnesota (81%), New Hampshire (77%) and Pennsylvania (71%), according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Shutting down the economy and ordering the public to stay at home didn’t prevent these deaths. These people were already staying home.

Public-health officials are warning that Covid-19 could surge again in the winter. The single most effective way to save lives would be to improve infection control in nursing homes and prepare to rush supplies of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment to these facilities. Overlooking nursing homes was the biggest lost opportunity in the battle against Covid-19.

Shutting down the economy and ordering the public to stay at home didn’t prevent these deaths. These people were already staying home.

When the pandemic hit, the White House marshaled federal agencies, the military and private industry to rush ventilators to hospitals in hot zones like New York and erect field hospitals to handle patient overflow. It was an impressive accomplishment. Yet nursing homes were ignored, despite early warnings they would be the deadliest places. Nursing-home residents accounted for roughly half of deaths in Italy and Spain as of early April.

Overlooking nursing homes was the biggest lost opportunity in the battle against Covid-19.

The carnage at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., was another red flag. The first patient tested positive on Feb. 28. More than 40 people died, including several staff members. Employees were untrained in infection control and the use of personal protective equipment. Infected patients weren’t given masks, even when they were transferred to a hospital. Hand sanitizer, masks and gowns were in short supply, according to a federal investigation. Kirkland turned out to be a preview of what would happen across the country.

Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal.

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Betsy McCaughey is Chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. She has led the national outcry against hospital infection deaths, demanding cleaner, safer hospitals.


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