KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new report shows there was a major spike over the summer in COVID-19 cases at nursing homes.
The report was compiled by the American Health Care Association (AHCA), which represents long-term care and post-acute care facilities, and the data came from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
By late May the number of cases in nursing homes nationwide began falling.
Then, at the end of June, that downward trend turned upward. According to the report, there were 5,480 confirmed COVID-19 cases in facilities as of June 21.
By July 26 there were 9,715 cases, which is the highest number since late May.
The report attributes the increase to community spread, particularly in the Sun Belt states of the South.
"It comes in through staff or visitors, primarily staff. That is a true thing about every single time we see spread into any congregate living site. So it reflects the community," Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said during a news conference Tuesday.
In an interview with the 41 Action News I-Team last month, Dr. Rex Archer of the KCMO Health Department also talked about the impact of community spread on nursing homes.
"Because we have such widespread community infection going on right now, the chances that workers at these facilities may get the virus out in the community are unfortunately very high," Dr. Archer said.
Dr. Archer spoke with the I-Team at that time about the outbreak at Blue River Rehabilitation Center in south Kansas City.
The facility's COVID-19 outbreak began at the end of June, and numbers rose through the month of July, mirroring the national trend.
As of Aug. 6, the KCMO Health Department reported the facility had seen 92 positive cases and 21 deaths. A spokesperson for the health department said it's important to note that Blue River has been accepting COVID-19 patients being discharged from hospitals.
The facility is cooperating with the state, which adopted a "box-in" strategy that prioritizes the isolation of infected people and comprehensive testing.
"That has led to 115,000 tests in over 400 of our 1,200 long-term care facilities," said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Birx praised the state Tuesday for its efforts, saying testing is key to containing the spread of the virus within nursing homes.
"We will continue to surge the ability to test into every single nursing home over the next four weeks until every nursing home has the ability to test their staff weekly," Birx said.
The federal government is also sending personal protective equipment (PPE) to nursing homes around the country to help in the battle against COVID.
The president of the AHCA specifically cited PPE shortages as a major obstacle in a letter to the National Governors Association.