Nursing home deaths jumped by 32% last year

Emergency responder unloads gurney
Emergency responder unloads gurney

About 4 in 10 Medicare patients in nursing homes had or likely had COVID-19 in 2020, according to a report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Deaths last year rose by 169,291 compared to 2019. Asian American Medicare residents had the highest jump in death rates from 17 percent in 2019 to 27 percent who died last year. Hispanic and African American patients faced an 8 percentage-point increase in their death rate, while white patients recorded a rise of 6 percentage points.

How did the department track the deaths? Investigators did not examine individual death certificates of Medicare patients but compared overall deaths among the nursing homes to the previous year’s record to account for excess deaths.

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The comparison tracked higher deaths each month but revealed two major spikes, one in April, when 81,484 Medicare patients in nursing homes died. In December, another 74,299 patients died.

Authorities used the technique to track deaths in New York after the first COVID-19 spike last spring and in 2017 after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico.

This story originally appeared in WORLD. © 2021, reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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