COVID-19 in NHs: Most Homes Had Multiple Outbreaks and Weeks of Sustained Transmission from May 2020 through January 2021 (GAO Report)

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare

The GAO (Government Accountability Office) issued this report … GAO-21-367 with the same title as this blog on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.   You’ll also find a nearly 7-minute podcast & transcript of the podcast on this same website.  The report is very interesting and worth the read.  The highlights page can be reviewed here and the full report (24 pages) here.  

“COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on the 1.4 million residents who live in nursing homes in the U.S.

(GAO) looked at the frequency and duration of COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes from May 2020 through January 2021. A nursing home outbreak begins when a nursing home reports a new case among residents or staff and ends when the home has two consecutive weeks with no new cases.

(GAO) found that during this 8-month period:

  • Nursing homes in (GAO) review had an average of about three outbreaks.
  • 94% of nursing homes in (GAO) review experienced more than one outbreak.
  • 85% of the nursing homes (GAO) reviewed had an outbreak lasting 5 or more weeks.”

“For each nursing home’s longest-lasting COVID-19 outbreak, GAO found that about 85 percent (11,311 nursing homes) had outbreaks lasting 5 or more weeks. Conversely, for about 15 percent of nursing homes (2,005 homes), the longest outbreak was shorter in duration, lasting between 1 and 4 weeks, with 267 of those homes able to control their outbreaks after the initial week.

  • The average number of COVID-19 cases per outbreak for nursing homes with a long-duration outbreak was 56, while the average for nursing homes with a short-duration outbreak was 13.
  • For both long- and short-duration outbreaks, over half of the nursing homes (66 percent, or 8,720 homes) reported that these outbreaks began with a staff member who tested positive the first week.”