COVID-19 cases climb in U.S. prisons, nursing homes

Members of the medical assistance team from the Peking Union Medical College Hospital take care of a COVID-19 patient. Pan Songgang/China Population Newspaper

As nearly 20,000 confirmed cases and 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in Colorado, the western state’s newest emerging battlegrounds are prisons and nursing homes, a trend also seen across the United States.

On Monday, a second inmate, 61, died at Sterling Correctional Facility in northeastern Colorado, and the number of active cases among inmates there has swelled by more than a third to 327, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC).

The update was posted online on Monday as part of a new state prisons database reporting the results of coronavirus testing at prisons across the state. Last week, an 83-year-old inmate died from COVID-19, CDOC officials said.

Since May, the pandemic has been hitting prisons hard. In Ohio, more than 20 percent of the people infected with coronavirus were prisoners.

In Arkansas, almost half of the state’s cases were in prisons and nursing homes, according to a CNN report.More than 1,000 inmates have tested positive for the virus, according to the Arkansas Department of Health, and 876 of them were in one prison facility.

Recent weeks have seen a rapid jump of infectious cases in nursing homes across the United States. CNN last week reported that more than 30 percent of Arkansas’ coronavirus deaths were nursing home residents. In New Hampshire, long-term care facility residents accounted for around 80 percent of the state’s fatalities.

Last week, the Louisiana Department of Health reported that 688 nursing home residents had died and an additional 50 deaths were reported among residents of other adult residential facilities.

Louisiana recorded 30,399 COVID-19 cases and 2,167 related deaths, Johns Hopkins University’s data showed.In the country’s northwest, more than 50 percent of New Jersey’s deaths came from long-term care facilities, according to data posted by the New Jersey Department of Health.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he spoke with the National Guard over the possibility of using non-medical members to assist nursing homes.

“Based on our numbers in long-term care to date, we took some very aggressive action early on and I think at this point it’s time to take further steps to address some of the long-term care testing issues,” New Hampshire Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette was quoted by CNN as saying.

“To date, we have tested over 1,000 nursing home residents across the state, which is a great number, we want to test more,” Shibinette said.About 111 people have died in New Hampshire, near 80 percent of whom were related to long-term care facility outbreaks, said Shibinette.

With the caseload from nursing homes growing, officials have been addressing requests from family members for greater transparency and communication.

“As the coronavirus continues to isolate families from their loved ones, providing swift and accurate information on coronavirus cases should be the bare minimum we expect from nursing home facilities,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a letter to the federal government last week.

Becerra said he wanted the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to get on board with accurate, timely information to concerned family members.

“These facilities house some of our most vulnerable populations, we must do everything we can to protect them,” Becerra wrote.

“While California is already taking steps, it’s important that CMS act immediately to implement and enforce new national guidelines that will increase transparency and ensure family members are notified by nursing homes as coronavirus cases occur,” he added.

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