25 Investigates: Active cases of COVID-19 stemming from nursing homes jump 163% in one month

BOSTON — 25 Investigates continues to examine the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on nursing home residents and their families and staff members.

In November, anchor and investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh first reported that a second wave of COVID infections was sweeping through nursing homes. One month later, there are now thousands of active cases in Massachusetts nursing homes.

Let’s start with the numbers

Eleven of the 43 new deaths reported in Massachusetts on Tuesday, Dec. 22 were in long term care facilities.

To date, 7,162 of the 11,549 deaths in the state were in long term care facilities, a staggering 62 percent.

“So, we are expecting the 28th, we’ll be seeing skilled nursing facilities in Massachusetts being vaccinated,” said Health and Humans Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders during a news conference Tuesday. While the COVID-19 vaccine will begin arriving in nursing homes Dec. 28, state data show they can’t get there soon enough.

According to the state’s weekly report dated Dec. 17, Massachusetts health officials are right now tracking 313 COVID-19 clusters resulting in 3,154 cases stemming from nursing homes. By comparison, there were 1,197 cases being tracked according the weekly report dated Nov. 12. That’s a 163 percent increase month to month.

“We cohort patients accordingly. Obviously, we stop visitation. But we would not stop vaccination of residents,” Sudders said.

How vaccines will be rolled out in these facilities

The state has partnered with CVS and Walgreens. Their teams will start administering doses the final week of 2020. CVS began vaccinating nursing home residents in 12 other states this week. They told Kavanagh the state determines the dates of the rollout and that the state works with the individual facilities on the timing.

CVS estimates it will take 12 weeks to vaccinate their share of the state’s nursing home residents and staff and the Pfizer vaccine will be administered in Massachusetts long term care facilities.

Walgreens did not respond to similar questions from 25 Investigates, saying only they are following CDC guidelines for distributing the vaccine.

As we mentioned, Secretary Sudders said the program will move forward even if there’s active cases in the home.

But, what about an individual who is sick?

CVS says it’s currently recommended that patients delay vaccination until they have recovered. So, they’ll host three clinics at each facility so anyone who can’t get the first shot during the first visit, can still receive both required doses.

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