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COVID-19 and nursing homes

We have learned — at the cost of tens of thousands of possibly preventable deaths — that COVID-19 finds nursing homes to be good hunting grounds. At one time earlier in the epidemic, more than half the nation’s deaths from the disease in many state were among residents of long-term care facilities.

Extraordinary steps taken to protect nursing home residents have paid off. By last Saturday, a total of 245,495 Americans had perished from COVID-19. More than one-fourth of them were in nursing homes.

That certainly is better than the rate last spring — but it is not acceptable.

Clearly, the coronavirus is on the offensive again. In some states, the peril is worse than ever. And nursing homes once again are prime targets.

Even in Brown County, where the extraordinary vigilance and caution of the local nursing home and extended care home workers held the virus at bay for months, is seeing more infections among the residents.

The danger has not escaped the notice of some governors, who have stepped up action to safeguard long-term care facility residents. One excellent idea is frequent testing of nursing home employees, who clearly are the most likely sources of infections among their patients. They should also be among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, when a vaccine is approved.

Both state and federal officials should view the spike in COVID-19 cases as a serious threat to nursing home residents throughout the United States. Extraordinary efforts must be taken to protect them — or the cost in lives will grow by leaps and bounds.

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