In nursing homes and long-term care facilities around the world, we have seen too many coronavirus cases. These sites have become cluster spots for coronavirus across the country, with a large number of nursing homes locked down to visitors as well. The World Health Organization’s top official for Europe, Hans Kluge, recently told reporters that “up to half of those who have died from CoViD-19 were resident in long term care facilities.”

California’s care facilities have been hit hard in recent weeks, with a nursing home in Riverside County evacuated after staff didn’t show up, four others in Los Angeles County receiving medical assistance from the California National Guard and rising numbers in Orange County.  The communal nature of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and the relative age and health conditions of their residents, means those living in nursing homes are at higher risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19.

We know that the people aged 65 and older are at a higher risk for severe illness or death from this virus, but what can be done to support this community and provide the best opportunity to mitigate the spread of the disease within long term care facilities?

One hope is that there will be better access to testing kits.  Mark Parkinson, CEO of the American Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities, was recently quoted in an Associated Press article saying that “only a very small percentage” of residents and staff have been tested because the federal and state governments have not made nursing homes the top priority.

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Another step is to remain vigilant and ensure proper cleaning and sanitizing with the appropriate EPA-approved cleaning products.  Studies show that the virus can persist in the air for up to three hours and for 2 to 3 days on stainless steel and plastic surfaces. In research published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, researchers found that a related coronavirus that causes SARS can last on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days. In a care facility, that’s a lot of high-touch surfaces and shared resident care equipment to think about.

While it is not part of slowing the spread, emotional connection and mental health is still important in the fight against the virus.  Thankfully, technology allows families and friends to stay connected and still see each other virtually.  It may not be the same as an in person visit to our older generation, but it is reminds all of us that we are better together.