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About 25% of US coronavirus deaths have been nursing home residents and staff

'We can't overstate the gravity of this situation'

Health care workers transport a patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at Life Care Center of Kirkland on Feb. 29 in Kirkland, Washington. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Roughly 25% of all documented coronavirus deaths in the United States have been nursing home residents or staff, according to data compiled and released by states, USA Today reported.

More than 16,000 people have died of COVID-19 in nursing homes in the United States because nursing homes present a lethal combination of high-risk patients and an environment in which the virus can thrive and easily be spread. More than 2 million Americans live in such facilities, according to the CDC.

"More needs to be done," said Rhonda Richards, senior legislative representative at AARP, according to USA Today. "The number of deaths is appalling. We can't overstate the gravity of this situation."

Nearly 100,000 nursing home residents and staff members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to available data compiled by USA Today from states, and that data is incomplete due to inconsistency in the level of reporting from state to state, and six states not providing data.

More than 5,700 facilities across 46 states have had at least one resident or staff member test positive for COVID-19. Some have been hit particularly hard, such as one facility in Maryland that has had 97 infected residents and 34 deaths, or two veterans homes in New Jersey that have seen a total of 97 deaths.

One problem in nursing homes has been the lack of personal protective equipment and access to testing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is now sending PPE to nursing homes across the nation. In Illinois, workers at 64 homes plan to strike for hazard pay and better protection.

The coronavirus is significantly more dangerous to elderly people and those with underlying health conditions. It survives longer in indoor, temperature-controlled environments and spreads rapidly when people are in close contact with one another. All of those factors exist in many nursing homes.

Additionally, some nursing homes, such as those in New York have been required to readmit patients even if they test positive for COVID-19 as a matter of state policy.

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