What you need to know about COVID-19: 1 in 5 nursing homes short on PPE and staff

One in five U.S. nursing homes faced severe shortages of protective gear like N95 masks this summer even as the Trump administration pledged to help, according to a study released Thursday that finds facilities in areas hard-hit by COVID 19 also struggled to keep staff.Significantly, there was no improvement from May to July in the shortages of personal protective equipment, known as PPE, or in the staffing shortfalls, according to the analysis of federal data by academic researchers. The summer has seen the coronavirus surge across the South, and much of the West and Midwest.People living in long-term care facilities represent less than 1% of the U.S. population, but account for 43% of coronavirus deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Similar glaring disparities have been seen with nursing home residents in other countries, but in the U.S. the issue has become politically sensitive for President Donald Trump, who is trying to hang on to support from older voters in his reelection bid.“A study that shows that 1 in 5 nursing homes has a severe shortage of PPE and a shortage of staff, and that it did not change from May to July, should be a massive read flag,” said Terry Fulmer, president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, a nonprofit that works to improve care for older adults.“We have had no coherent federal response,” added Fulmer, who was not involved in the research.The latest numbersIn the U.S., more than 5.5 million people have been infected with the virus and at least 174,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.Reacting to the study, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a statement that the Trump administration “has provided nursing homes the tools they need to stop the virus’ spread and, ultimately, each nursing home is responsible for its residents’ safety.” CMS sets nursing home standards and pays for much of the care.The study published in the journal Health Affairs looked at two periods of four weeks each earlier this summer, from mid-May to mid-June, and from the latter part of June to mid-July. Large outbreaks in nursing homes have been reported in many states since the end of February. US Senator Bill Cassidy tests positive for COVID-19U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a news release issued by his office.According to the statement, he was notified Wednesday that he had been exposed and tested positive on Thursday. He will be in quarantine for two weeks, according to the statement. Official says new cases declining across US, urges continued cautionStates across the U.S. are now seeing a decline in coronavirus cases, a U.S. top official said this week, though he warned things could quickly change again if Americans aren’t careful.U.S. trends are now “going in the right direction,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration official overseeing U.S. coronavirus testing, attributing the decline in part to safety protocols like masks and social distancing.At least 20 states are seeing a downward trend in new cases compared to the previous week while 18 states are reporting a steady number of new cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.State leaders who have reported a leveling of new cases also attribute it to adherence to safety guidelines. In Washington state, where health officials say the rate of new cases is slowing down, Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman said “face coverings have made a difference.”Giroir said U.S. states and jurisdictions that are reporting an upward trajectory of new cases include Guam, Hawaii, California, Indiana and Vermont. Hawaii’s state capital dramatically tightened restrictions on gatherings — both indoors and outdoors — in an effort to control a surge of cases.Despite the hopeful signs, now isn’t a time to let up or ease measures, Giroir cautioned.”This could turn around very quickly if we’re not careful,” Giroir said. “We saw that early on after Memorial Day and the couple weeks afterward that sort of started the current outbreak.”The surge in cases over the summer came weeks after states lifted restriction to curb the spread of the virus. Much of the progress made during stay-at-home orders was quickly lost, officials said, as some Americans celebrated the start of summer by packing beaches and parties with little distance between them. By July, many states saw new peaks that crushed earlier records set during April and May. In response, more than half the country halted their reopening plans and enacted new measures to slow a spread that experts said was out of control.U.S. leaders appealed to young people to skip out on social gatherings and practice safety guidelines. Younger groups, experts said, helped drive the rise in cases over the summer. As they head back to college campuses now, universities have already reported hundreds of positive tests.It’s unclear what could happen next, but experts have offered grim predictions as flu season approaches. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said the consequences of reopening the country too quickly could be devastating, noting Americans already saw what happened when states skipped over the guideposts.And last month, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the fall and winter are going to be “probably one of the most difficult times that we (have) experienced in American public health.” Georgia, Texas, Florida report most infections per capitaMeanwhile, states across the South and West continue to report the most daily infections when adjusted for population.Georgia leads the country per capita with the most cases per day over a seven-day average, followed by Texas and Florida. All three states pushed for some of the most aggressive reopening plans months ago. Earlier in the summer, experts called Florida the new epicenter, as hospitals statewide reached ICU capacity and officials announced thousands of new infections each day.The governor, like Georgia’s governor, never issued a statewide mask mandate.As Georgia schools reopened this month, many reported hundreds of students and staff were in quarantine after officials identified positive cases. A photo of a crowded Georgia high school hallway with nearly no masks in sight made headlines and raised concern across the country. One school district announced it would begin the year with virtual learning after more than 90 staff members were forced to quarantine.An Aug. 16 White House Coronavirus Task Force report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Georgia was in the red zone and recommended the state do more to fight coronavirus, including close down bars and gyms, limit indoor dining at restaurants and reduce social gatherings to 10 or fewer people.”If we’re the highest (per) capita in the state right now that’s because Texas and Florida and Arizona and some of the states that were peaking a week or two ago are on the downclimb,” Gov. Brian Kemp said.Kemp’s office told CNN in a statement the state’s health department continues to “urge Georgians to wear a mask, watch their distance, wash their hands, and follow public health guidelines.” Kemp press secretary Cody Hall said the state’s 7-day case average is down and hospitalizations are down, adding the state’s transmission rate is 0.85.”The data is encouraging but we cannot take our foot off the gas,” Hall said in a statement. Economic impactThe number of laid-off workers seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose to 1.1 million last week after two weeks of declines, evidence that many employers are still slashing jobs as the coronavirus bedevils the U.S. economy.The latest figures, released Thursday by the Labor Department, suggest that more than five months after the viral outbreak erupted the economy is still weak, despite recent gains as some businesses reopen and some sectors like housing and manufacturing have rebounded. Jobless claims had fallen last week below 1 million for the first time since March, to 971,000. A rising number of people who have lost jobs say they consider their loss to be permanent.The total number of people receiving unemployment aid declined last week from 15.5 million to 14.8 million, the government said Thursday. Stop the spread of COVID-19To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask.Masks are required in public places in some states and businesses. Multiple major retailers have announced mask requirement policies as the nation continues to see a large number of cases reported in certain areas.The CDC also recommends you keep 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.Make sure to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.For more tips on how to stay safe, CLICK HERE. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

One in five U.S. nursing homes faced severe shortages of protective gear like N95 masks this summer even as the Trump administration pledged to help, according to a study released Thursday that finds facilities in areas hard-hit by COVID 19 also struggled to keep staff.

Significantly, there was no improvement from May to July in the shortages of personal protective equipment, known as PPE, or in the staffing shortfalls, according to the analysis of federal data by academic researchers. The summer has seen the coronavirus surge across the South, and much of the West and Midwest.

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People living in long-term care facilities represent less than 1% of the U.S. population, but account for 43% of coronavirus deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Similar glaring disparities have been seen with nursing home residents in other countries, but in the U.S. the issue has become politically sensitive for President Donald Trump, who is trying to hang on to support from older voters in his reelection bid.

“A study that shows that 1 in 5 nursing homes has a severe shortage of PPE and a shortage of staff, and that it did not change from May to July, should be a massive read flag,” said Terry Fulmer, president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, a nonprofit that works to improve care for older adults.

“We have had no coherent federal response,” added Fulmer, who was not involved in the research.

The latest numbers

In the U.S., more than 5.5 million people have been infected with the virus and at least 174,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Reacting to the study, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a statement that the Trump administration “has provided nursing homes the tools they need to stop the virus’ spread and, ultimately, each nursing home is responsible for its residents’ safety.” CMS sets nursing home standards and pays for much of the care.

The study published in the journal Health Affairs looked at two periods of four weeks each earlier this summer, from mid-May to mid-June, and from the latter part of June to mid-July. Large outbreaks in nursing homes have been reported in many states since the end of February.

US Senator Bill Cassidy tests positive for COVID-19

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a news release issued by his office.

According to the statement, he was notified Wednesday that he had been exposed and tested positive on Thursday.

He will be in quarantine for two weeks, according to the statement.

Official says new cases declining across US, urges continued caution

States across the U.S. are now seeing a decline in coronavirus cases, a U.S. top official said this week, though he warned things could quickly change again if Americans aren’t careful.

U.S. trends are now “going in the right direction,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration official overseeing U.S. coronavirus testing, attributing the decline in part to safety protocols like masks and social distancing.

At least 20 states are seeing a downward trend in new cases compared to the previous week while 18 states are reporting a steady number of new cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

State leaders who have reported a leveling of new cases also attribute it to adherence to safety guidelines. In Washington state, where health officials say the rate of new cases is slowing down, Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman said “face coverings have made a difference.”

Giroir said U.S. states and jurisdictions that are reporting an upward trajectory of new cases include Guam, Hawaii, California, Indiana and Vermont. Hawaii’s state capital dramatically tightened restrictions on gatherings — both indoors and outdoors — in an effort to control a surge of cases.

Despite the hopeful signs, now isn’t a time to let up or ease measures, Giroir cautioned.

“This could turn around very quickly if we’re not careful,” Giroir said. “We saw that early on after Memorial Day and the couple weeks afterward that sort of started the current outbreak.”

The surge in cases over the summer came weeks after states lifted restriction to curb the spread of the virus. Much of the progress made during stay-at-home orders was quickly lost, officials said, as some Americans celebrated the start of summer by packing beaches and parties with little distance between them. By July, many states saw new peaks that crushed earlier records set during April and May. In response, more than half the country halted their reopening plans and enacted new measures to slow a spread that experts said was out of control.

U.S. leaders appealed to young people to skip out on social gatherings and practice safety guidelines. Younger groups, experts said, helped drive the rise in cases over the summer. As they head back to college campuses now, universities have already reported hundreds of positive tests.

It’s unclear what could happen next, but experts have offered grim predictions as flu season approaches. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said the consequences of reopening the country too quickly could be devastating, noting Americans already saw what happened when states skipped over the guideposts.

And last month, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the fall and winter are going to be “probably one of the most difficult times that we (have) experienced in American public health.”

Georgia, Texas, Florida report most infections per capita

Meanwhile, states across the South and West continue to report the most daily infections when adjusted for population.

Georgia leads the country per capita with the most cases per day over a seven-day average, followed by Texas and Florida. All three states pushed for some of the most aggressive reopening plans months ago. Earlier in the summer, experts called Florida the new epicenter, as hospitals statewide reached ICU capacity and officials announced thousands of new infections each day.

The governor, like Georgia’s governor, never issued a statewide mask mandate.

As Georgia schools reopened this month, many reported hundreds of students and staff were in quarantine after officials identified positive cases. A photo of a crowded Georgia high school hallway with nearly no masks in sight made headlines and raised concern across the country. One school district announced it would begin the year with virtual learning after more than 90 staff members were forced to quarantine.

An Aug. 16 White House Coronavirus Task Force report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Georgia was in the red zone and recommended the state do more to fight coronavirus, including close down bars and gyms, limit indoor dining at restaurants and reduce social gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

“If we’re the highest (per) capita in the state right now that’s because Texas and Florida and Arizona and some of the states that were peaking a week or two ago are on the downclimb,” Gov. Brian Kemp said.

Kemp’s office told CNN in a statement the state’s health department continues to “urge Georgians to wear a mask, watch their distance, wash their hands, and follow public health guidelines.” Kemp press secretary Cody Hall said the state’s 7-day case average is down and hospitalizations are down, adding the state’s transmission rate is 0.85.

“The data is encouraging but we cannot take our foot off the gas,” Hall said in a statement.

Economic impact

The number of laid-off workers seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose to 1.1 million last week after two weeks of declines, evidence that many employers are still slashing jobs as the coronavirus bedevils the U.S. economy.

The latest figures, released Thursday by the Labor Department, suggest that more than five months after the viral outbreak erupted the economy is still weak, despite recent gains as some businesses reopen and some sectors like housing and manufacturing have rebounded. Jobless claims had fallen last week below 1 million for the first time since March, to 971,000.

A rising number of people who have lost jobs say they consider their loss to be permanent.

The total number of people receiving unemployment aid declined last week from 15.5 million to 14.8 million, the government said Thursday.

Stop the spread of COVID-19

To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask.

Masks are required in public places in some states and businesses. Multiple major retailers have announced mask requirement policies as the nation continues to see a large number of cases reported in certain areas.

The CDC also recommends you keep 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.

Make sure to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

For more tips on how to stay safe, CLICK HERE.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.