Pushing Limits

COVID Death Toll In Nursing Homes – Pushing Limits – December 11, 2020

Lydia Nunez

Less than 1% of U.S. residents live in nursing homes*, yet between 30-40% percent of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in these institutions.  One hundred thousand people have died due to the coronavirus in various types of nursing homes. These shocking numbers are raising big questions.  And the biggest question is, will these deaths galvanize big changes in the care of disabled and older people? For decades, our guest, disability activist Lydia Nunez, has sounded the alarm about ongoing nursing home abuse and the conditions that gave rise to this pandemic tragedy. Even before COVID, over 80% of nursing homes had infection control deficiencies and were rife with abuse and neglect.  And it comes as no surprise that the biggest offenders are nursing homes caring for residents of color.

Photo courtesy Gerd Altmann (Pixabay)

Listen in to hear Lydia’s analysis of these and other problems, and her solutions for better care for our disabled brothers and sisters.  These who have routinely ended up in these institutions are now routinely dying of Covid-19.  Something’s gotta change! This hour-long fund drive special is produced and hosted by Mark Romoser and Adrienne Lauby.  Thanks to Josh Elwood, Helen Walsh of “Diverse Disability Media”, and Toby Edelman for assistance. Lydia Nunez Landry is a disability rights advocate living in Houston, Texas.  Her advocacy work centers on the rights and safety of institutionalized disabled and older people. She is a social worker and a certified volunteer long-term care ombudsman. Lydia’s activism draws on years of study in disability, critical race, queer, and feminist theories.  She’s the mother of two, a member of ADAPT and a board member of Not Dead Yet.  Her rich life history includes a magna cum laude degree from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and emergency post-hurricane work along the Gulf Coast.


Facts and More about the Covid Crisis in U.S. Nursing Homes and the Neglect that Led To It. (Resources provided by Lydia Nunez)

1. According to the office of the Inspector General, 1 in 4 cases of abuse and neglect in congregate nursing facilities goes unreported.

2. 1 in 5 visits to the ER from a nursing home is the result of confirmed abuse (same report as above) 3. In the span of five years, the number of abuse deficiencies in nursing homes more than doubled with 42.6% of abuse citations classified as the highest level of severity. (Same inspector general’s report) 4. As of the last week of November, more than 100,000 people died of Covid-19 in long-term congregate institutions.

5. The US Government Accountability Office found serious problems in nursing home quality, including problems protecting residents from abuse and weaknesses in government oversight. Even when abuse was reported to the state, enforcement actions were not implemented. 58% of the abuse was perpetrated by staff. 6. Racial disparities in nursing homes are pronounced with BIPOC in the lowest rated facilities–according to U.S. Government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The nursing ‘home’ “The Resort” in Texas City, which is a facility with predominantly Black residents, gave residents (some without consent) ” hydroxychloroquine, a drug not approved for treating COVID-19″.

7. In nursing homes where 60% of residents are Black or Latino, Covid cases are twice that of nursing homes with predominantly white residents. 8. The nation spends $170 billion annually on nursing homes (this was before they were given 20 billion during the pandemic).

9. Reporting COVID cases and deaths (that is, nursing homes) wasn’t mandatory until June 2020. Despite reporting requirements, only 80% of nursing homes have complied. ————————————

*For the purposes of this article and radio program “nursing homes” is used as an umbrella term that includes many forms of long-term care as well as other congregant living facilities such as group homes. Original air date: 12/11/20