Despite facilities’ best efforts, nearly 9,000 Texas nursing home residents have died of COVID-19 this past year. That’s the conclusion from a new Texas Tribune analysis.
Last year, the state’s 1,200 nursing homes scrambled to keep the virus from invading the facilities and infecting their 90,000 residents. But many in this fragile population succumbed to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Carla Astudillo, the data visuals developer for the Tribune, talked to Texas Standard about her news organization’s findings after analyzing state COVID-19 case data in which one in five Texas COVID-19 deaths were nursing home residents. On average, 175 nursing home residents died each week between April 2020 and this month.
The turning point for nursing residents started in mid-February, Astudillo said.
“That’s because nursing homes started vaccinating their staff and residents starting in late December. So it took one or two months for it to really show,” she said. “And when it happened, the effects were dramatic. In March and April of 2021, the weekly death toll did not go over 50 deaths. That is just a dramatic decrease that you saw after vaccinations.”
The biggest takeaway for both nursing homes and state officials is how vulnerable to infection these facilities are, Astudillo says.
“As an industry, nursing home care, you know, has suffered because there is chronic understaffing and staff is severely underpaid,” she said.
The Tribune found last year that 80% of Texas nursing homes had been cited for infection control and prevention issues by the federal government.
“It was inevitable that the pandemic would hit nursing homes extremely hard and that they would just be devastated,” Astudillo said.