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Horowitz: Secure the nursing homes, not the beaches: Most new deaths are from nursing homes

What if our government expended all our national funding, resolve, regulations, and resources pushing a quarantine of healthy people with less than a 0.1% fatality rate and then left nursing homes – the main target of COVID-19’s deadly reach – completely exposed?

Part of why it’s so important for the government to stop lying to people about the risk of death for younger and healthier people is not just to get our lives and economy moving again, but to more effectively and efficiently train our resources and focus on those who truly are in danger. Now it appears that some of the governors who were most concerned with expending money and resources to lock down an entire nation, including people with a very low fatality rate, failed to properly secure the nursing homes.

One peculiar observation about the death count is that the number of deaths continues to skyrocket, even as hospitalizations have long since peaked and everyone agrees the curve has been bent. The main argument of the pro-lockdown crowd is only concerning what might happen if lockdown is ended. So why are the deaths still going up, and where are they coming from?

At the same time, as I document the percentage of states’ total COVID-19 fatalities that come from nursing homes, I’ve noticed that the percentage seems to be rising nearly every day in many states. One would expect the percentage to remain relatively the same. If nursing homes account for half the deaths, all things equal, that trend should hold. I don’t have screenshots of state dashboards on this particular data point tracked by day, but we can go back in time to some reporters or commentators who did and track the growth.

Consider the following:

  • Massachusetts: On April 16, I used data culled from databases by Phil Kerpen, who found that in Massachusetts, “530 COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents, 47.8% of the state's total reported 1108 deaths.” The number was 56% on April 24 and 59% on May 4, which means a disproportionate share of the recent increase was from nursing homes.
  • Pennsylvania: On the same day, Kerpen reported that “Pennsylvania reports 365 COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents, 51.6% of the state's total reported 707 deaths.” Local media reported that number had risen to 61% as of April 26. Then, as of noon on May 5, it was 67.3%.
  • New Jersey: On April 17, Bloomberg reported that nursing home deaths were 39.8% of New Jersey’s total count. As of May 5, it was 50%.
  • Minnesota: On April 28, the Star-Tribune reported that nursing homes composed 77% of Minnesota’s COVID-19 deaths. Now it’s up to 85%.
  • Connecticut: As of April 16, long-term care facilities accounted for 40% of the total deaths; now it’s 55%.
  • Virginia: Using state data posted by Kaiser Family Foundation on April 23, we can show the share of nursing home deaths jumped from 22% to 57%. Which would mean that nearly all the recent deaths were in long-term care facilities. This would explain the enigmatic rise in Virginia, while nobody on the ground is seeing a general crisis in the state.
  • Illinois: As of April 19, nursing home deaths accounted for 22% of statewide fatalities. As of May 1, it was up to 44%. That would mean that 68% of all new deaths for those 11 days were in nursing homes, and the trend seems to be accelerating every day.

When you go through the data, it becomes clear that not only are more than half the deaths in most states from long-term senior care facilities, but the percentage of deaths nursing homes compose is growing rapidly every day. For example, in Pennsylvania, on May 5, an astounding 55 of the 62 deaths recorded that day were in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. Last week, the number of deaths at a state-run veterans’ care facility tripled in just five days.

This fact was borne out most dramatically when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that the state added 1,700 nursing home deaths to its overall total. It’s unclear how many of the states are registering these increases retroactively from earlier deaths and how many are current with the date of the report.

It is, therefore, quite obvious why the deaths continue to grow in large numbers even as the hospitalizations plummet. The majority of the new deaths are increasingly coming from nursing homes, and many of the patients die in the facilities, not in a hospital.

This clear fact pattern demonstrates the need for two policy changes that are really one.

First, it is insane for the government and the media to obscure and muddle the nursing home crisis and conflate it with the general population. It’s quite evident that the nursing homes are the main crisis. There’s no reason why younger and healthier people should not be brought out of lockdown.

At the same time, the very fact that we are focusing all our energies and resources on locking down an entire nation and getting protective gear for people who are at low risk is harming those who are 100 times more at risk. The national universal lockdown is what is killing, not saving, Grandpa. The police and public education resources targeting young people in parks and at the beach should all be focused on nursing homes. The tests and PPE that are being diverted to the general population should all be prioritized first at nursing homes.

What the politicians have done is akin to trying to extinguish a fire in a building by spraying water at the entire town, hoping that enough of it will reach the building.

At this point, more than a national pandemic crisis, we have a morality crisis in terms of care in nursing homes. While the death rate is high for those over 80, it appears, at least anecdotally, that the death rate inside nursing homes is even higher. Are they getting the proper care once they contract the virus? Are they getting the proper precautions for avoiding the virus?

In one nursing home in New Jersey, a nurse is quoted lamenting that staff were not given PPE until April 6 and that there were no isolation rooms for individual patients. In states like New Jersey and across the country, the pattern is the same: not enough resources, quarantine space, testing for patients and staff, or adequate health care.

Imagine if we had not mandated the use of masks on an entire population and had diverted testing from those with a 0.1% fatality rate and instead used them all for those with a death rate exponentially higher. South Korea, which to begin with didn’t shut down its entire society, appeared to achieve a much better result in its long-term senior living facilities with a more targeted and precise approach.

Then there is the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Andrew Cuomo’s March 25 decision to force senior facilities to take in those who were already hospitalized with the virus. A similar dynamic played out in California, Connecticut and New Jersey. In their panic to deal with an exaggerated death rate among the general population and free up more hospital space that was not needed, they caused an astronomical death rate in nursing homes. It turns out that it was the purveyors of the panic porn and universal lockdown who killed Grandpa.

One last thing…
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