Nearly 7,000 people have died of coronavirus in US nursing homes

At least 6,900 people living in nursing homes in the U.S. have died of the coronavirus, according to The New York Times. 

Data analyzed by USA Today earlier this week showed state agencies have reported more than 3,000 people have died in nursing homes across 37 states. 

Data from the Times shows much more than that, revealing that about a fifth of deaths from the virus in the United States have been tied to nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. 

“They’re death pits,” Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York who founded the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, told the Times. “These nursing homes are already overwhelmed. They’re crowded and they’re understaffed. One Covid-positive patient in a nursing home produces carnage.”

The U.S. has about 15,600 nursing homes with 1.3 million residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Early on, public health officials warned that the elderly and immune-compromised are particularly at risk of dying from the virus. 

The coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. first erupted in a Washington state nursing home where dozens of people have died. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said last month these facilities are “an accelerator” for the virus. 

On Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) directed his attorney general to investigate nursing homes in the state that are experiencing high numbers of coronavirus deaths after officials found 17 bodies in a nursing home morgue that was built for no more than four people.

Nursing home employees who spoke with the Times said they lack adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), which puts both them and residents at risk.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and other public health officials on Friday regarding the lack of PPE and other medical supplies at long-term care and nursing homes in the country. 

“I have received numerous inquiries and expressions of concern from constituents who are deeply worried about loved ones facing the unique risks of contracting COVID-19 in long-term care and nursing homes,” wrote  Thompson. 

“Like so many aspects of the Administration’s approach to acquiring and distributing PPE and other medical supplies and equipment, the specific processes for distributing PPE to long-term care and nursing homes remains a mystery shrouded in confusion,” he added.

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