Survey: Nearly 1 in 4 assisted living facilities reported at least one case of COVID-19

Caregiver wearing scrubs serving meal to senior man and woman at dining table
A new report found that the fatality rate in assisted living facilities is comparable to the rate in nursing homes. (Getty Images/Monkeybusinessimages)

Nearly one in four assisted living facilities had at least one case of COVID-19 and 8% of those facilities had widespread outbreaks of at least 10 cases as of May 31, according to a new survey conducted by House and Senate lawmakers.

The survey was part of a report released by the lawmakers (PDF) Friday on the impact of the novel coronavirus on assisted living facilities. Lawmakers wanted to see how facilities are faring as nursing homes have been the source of some major outbreaks of COVID-19.

“This report confirms that, just like nursing homes, assisted living facilities present significant risks for coronavirus infection and outbreaks,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, one of the lawmakers who participated in the investigation.

The investigation found that of the residents of assisted living facilities who have been tested, 2.9% came back with a positive COVID-19 result as of May 31. That is more than five times the national average of 0.5%.

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Overall, 43% of residents who have tested positive for the virus have gone to the hospital and 31% have died.

“This fatality rate for diagnosed cases, while highly sensitive to the testing rate, is approximately six times the national average,” according to a release on the report.

That fatality rate is roughly equivalent to nursing homes, which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires reports of COVID-19 cases and fatalities. The agency recently added COVID-19 cases for nursing homes to its Nursing Home Compare website to ensure the public can check about the extent of an outbreak in a facility.

Now lawmakers want similar data collection requirements for assisted living facilities. The lawmakers behind the investigation introduced the Assisted Living Facility Coronavirus Reporting Act that requires states to report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for each assisted living facility in the state historic and weekly COVID-19 data.

The bill also requires assisted living facilities to notify state, local and federal agencies the next day after a positive COVID-19 case and suspected outbreaks in the facility.

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In addition, any reporting requirement that the Trump administration imposes on nursing homes must also be applied to assisted living facilities.

“The coronavirus pandemic has made painfully clear that the federal government must do more to protect residents of assisted living facilities,” said Rep. Carol Maloney, D-New York, one of the co-sponsors of the legislation.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, is another co-sponsor.

The survey is based on information from the 11 largest assisted living facility operators in the country.