The number of reported coronavirus deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in the United States has more than doubled to 5,670 since last week, according to new data.
The soaring death rate at residential facilities for the elderly was largely driven by huge increases in hard-hit states like New York, according to state health data.
There are now 3,466 long-term care facilities in 39 states with known coronavirus infections, nearly 1,000 more facilities than state officials reported last week.
At least 45 residents at Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Richmond, Virginia, have died after falling ill with the virus, the highest known death toll at a long-term care facility in the United States, according to an analysis of case data by The New York Times.
The facility has struggled to stop the outbreak, which has killed more than a quarter of its residents and infected about 80 percent of them, in part because of what staff members described as crowded conditions and a lack of resources.
By far the largest increase in nursing home deaths was in New York state, where the death count soared from 1,330 last week to 3,060, as of Wednesday.
In New Jersey, the number of nursing homes deaths has risen nearly five-fold within the last eight days, from 128 to 625 deaths. Massachusetts has also been hit hard, with 444 nursing home deaths in 214 facilities.
But the true toll among the 1 million mostly frail and elderly people who live in such facilities is likely much higher, experts say, because most state counts don’t include those who died without ever being tested for COVID-19.
Experts say nursing home deaths may keep climbing because of chronic staffing shortages that have been made worse by the coronavirus crisis, a shortage of protective supplies and a continued lack of available testing.
Despite the rapid and deadly spread of the virus, just 17 states have disclosed the names of nursing homes with known coronavirus infections.
Some families with loved ones in nursing homes hit with outbreaks say they fear they are being kept in the dark about the expanding number of cases in the facilities where their family members reside.
Federal health officials are coming under increasing pressure to start publicly tracking coronavirus infections and deaths in nursing homes.
Experts say the lack of tracking and transparency has been a major blind spot, and that publicizing outbreaks as they happen could help officials see where to focus testing and other safety measures.
US coronavirus deaths increased by a record number for the second day in a row, rising by at least 2,371 on Wednesday to top 30,800, according to a Reuters tally.
The United States, with the world’s third-largest population, has now suffered the greatest number of reported fatalities from the coronavirus, ahead of Italy and Spain.
President Donald Trump, who is under immense pressure for his slow and inadequate response to the American outbreak, said on Tuesday that he had ordered a halt to the US’s funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) because of what he alleged to be the body’s mishandling of the global health crisis.
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