Since start of pandemic, 35%-40% of deaths in long-term care facilities in US associated with COVID-19
US nursing homes with higher percentages of nonwhite residents see 3.3 times more deaths from COVID-19 than those with more white residents, according to a new study by the University of Chicago.
Nursing homes with the highest proportion of nonwhite residents reported a mean of 5.6 deaths, according to data compiled from over 13,000 nursing homes in the US, said the study published in the JAMA Network Open medical journal.
In comparison, nursing homes with highest percentages of white residents reported an average of only 1.7 deaths.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, between 35% and 40% of deaths in long-term care facilities in the US have been associated with COVID-19, it added.
“Very early on, we saw some striking relationships with the racial composition of a nursing home, where nursing homes serving more Black and brown residents seem to have more COVID cases and deaths,” said Dr. Tamara Konetzka, senior author of the study.
“There were theories floating around that maybe Black and brown residents are just sicker or are in low-quality homes, but we wanted to dig beneath these really alarming statistics and analyze why these outcomes were happening,” added Konetzka, the Louis Block professor in public health sciences and the college at the University of Chicago.
But this disparity is not only about the quality of the nursing homes, according to Konetzka, stressing that Black and non-White people tend to live in neighborhoods that have a high prevalence of the virus in general, and the staff who work in these facilities are more likely to live in these neighborhoods.
The higher prevalence of COVID-19 in minority communities in the US and white communities’ easier access to treatment and vaccination have exacerbated the perennial problem of US race relations.
Dr. Susan Moore, a 52-year-old Black physician, lost her life last December after posting a video saying her fight against the virus was made worse by the mistreatment she got from a doctor.
“This is how Black people get killed. When you send them home and they don’t know how to fight for themselves,” she said in the Facebook video.
Separately, since mid-February New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his team have also been under fire over suppressing the state’s nursing home death toll.
The FBI, with the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, started last month to investigate COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes in New York.