GAO Releases Report on COVID-19 in Nursing Homes (May 2021)

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report, “COVID-19 in Nursing Homes – Most Homes Had Multiple Outbreaks and Weeks of Sustained Transmission from May 2020 through January 2021.” The report looks at the average frequency of COVID-19 outbreaks* (including by length) in nursing homes over the same time period, separating the outbreaks either into short-duration or long-duration**.

Findings of Note:

  • Only 0.5% (64) nursing homes in the country did not have a COVID-19 outbreak in their facilities for the reviewed time period. By contrast, 44% of facilities (~6k) reviewed had 4 or more outbreaks.
  • 66% of nursing homes reported that the outbreak began with a staff positive case in the first week of the outbreak.

GAO looked at different characteristics of the facilities as well, finding the following:

  • Facilities with long-duration outbreaks were more likely to have more beds than those that experienced short-duration outbreaks.
  • Infection prevention and control deficiencies cited prior to the pandemic (2013-2019) did not impact whether the duration of the outbreak was shorter or longer. GAO notes that this is because most facilities in either group were cited for infection control-related issues during that time period anyway.

In what seems to be a rare occurrence for a government report finding, GAO did not find any correlation between ownership type and the variable it was comparing, which in this case is outbreak duration.

View the highlights from the report here or click here to view the full report.

* GAO uses CDC guidance to define “outbreak” for this report. An “outbreak” begins the week that a facility reports a new case of COVID-19 in staff or residents and the outbreak ends when there have been 2 consecutive weeks with no new staff or resident cases reported.

**For the purposes of this report, “short duration” is an outbreak lasting 1-4 weeks, and “long-duration” is over 5 weeks.

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