Of the more than 146,000 Americans killed by COVID-19, too many have been residents of nursing homes. Somehow, despite knowing older people with pre-existing health conditions are most vulnerable to the virus, we as a nation allowed that to happen.
Many of the deaths occurred during the early weeks of the epidemic, before the need for extraordinary long-term care safeguards was apparent. Many others were the result of wrongheaded action by public officials.
For a few days, it seemed as if COVID-19 was on the run in the United States. Then, millions of people suffering from overconfidence dropped their guard. Now, the epidemic seems to have gotten its second wind.
And in some states, new cases are popping up in nursing homes. More of the very people who should have been able to rely in an additional layer of protection will die because we have slipped.
That is inexcusable.
Throughout the nation, commonsense measures such as social distancing, personal hygiene and use of face coverings while in public places are being ignored by many. Clearly, that provides a larger community pool of infected people, from which the virus can be transmitted into our long-term care facilities.
They have to be staffed, after all, and that means anything outside the walls of a nursing home can be taken inside.
Given resistance by so many to behaviors that could curb the spread of COVID-19, that train may have left the station. That leaves it up to nursing home administrators and staff, along with local and state governments, to erect barriers against the disease. The most effective is bans on visitors to nursing home residents. Another helpful step is frequent testing of both nursing home residents and staff.
This amounts to a whatever-it-takes situation. If it is not addressed as such, tens of thousands more older Americans may perish — needlessly.