COVID-19 in Nursing Homes: Which States Had the Worst Problems?

nursing home resident getting temperature taken by nurse

It shouldn’t matter what state a person lives in — every nursing home in America should keep its residents safe.

Looking at the statistics, however, it seems that some states have not done a good job of keeping the virus out of nursing homes.

In order to prevent more devastation during the cold months, states that have struggled so far need to make positive changes now.

State-by-State Coronavirus Deaths in Nursing Homes

It can be difficult to make sense of which states are doing better than others because they don’t all report their data in the same way. Some will provide a facility-by-facility breakdown of cases and deaths. Others provide state-wide totals.

The New York Times has been tracking coronavirus nursing home data since the outbreak first began. They’ve brought together the scattered information from states and the federal government to create a clearer picture of the crisis.

Below is how states rank in several important categories, as of November 20, according to data compiled by the New York Times.

Most Coronavirus Deaths in Nursing Homes

  • New Jersey: 7,008
  • Florida: 7,002
  • New York: 6,806
  • Massachusetts: 6,594
  • California: 6,198
  • Pennsylvania: 6,059
  • Texas: 5,683
  • Illinois: 5,493
  • Connecticut: 3,375
  • Ohio: 3,065

Most Coronavirus Cases in Nursing Homes

  • Texas: 64,947
  • California: 63,343
  • New Jersey: 40,993
  • Illinois: 39,686
  • Pennsylvania: 35,370
  • Ohio: 31,434
  • Florida: 28,516
  • Massachusetts: 26,268
  • Georgia: 25,248
  • North Carolina: 22,116

Highest Percentage of Coronavirus Deaths in Nursing Homes

  • New Hampshire: 81%
  • Rhode Island: 73%
  • Connecticut: 70%
  • Massachusetts: 63%
  • Minnesota: 62%
  • Pennsylvania: 62%
  • Delaware: 57%
  • Maine: 55%
  • Kentucky: 55%
  • North Dakota: 55%

Sadly, these numbers are increasing daily as more people suffer. Up-to-date information for all states is available on the Times website.

In addition to state statistics, they provide numbers about individual nursing homes that have reported 50 or more cases. This information can help families make informed decisions about which facilities are the safest.

The need for long-term care did not stop during the outbreak. It’s more important than ever for families to know which facilities are struggling with coronavirus or nursing home abuse.

States With Lingering PPE Shortages

As the pandemic spread across the globe, countries scrambled for personal protective equipment (PPE). Nursing homes quickly depleted their stock of masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer, and other basic supplies.

When outbreaks began inside nursing homes, they couldn’t get the PPE they desperately needed. Without equipment, it was impossible to contain the spread, leading to many preventable deaths.

Making things worse, many nursing homes still lacked enough medical supplies months into the pandemic. According to a recent report by two public interest groups, the Frontier Group and U.S. Pirg Education Fund:

“As of late August, 226,495 residents in 2,981 nursing homes nationwide were at risk because the homes had dangerously low supplies of one or more types of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks or gowns, according to data submitted to the federal government.

That means that 20% of nursing homes in late August had a less-than-one-week supply of one or more types of PPE, which represents a critical shortage by industry standards.”

For some states, the shortage of PPE in nursing homes was worse than it was in other places. The report focused on 6 different types of PPE that are essential in stopping the spread of the virus.

For each type, they listed the 5 states with the worst shortages:

  • Eye protection: Maine, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Vermont, and West Virginia
  • Gloves: Iowa, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington.
  • Gowns: Alabama, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Vermont, and West Virginia.
  • Hand sanitizer: Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Washington.
  • N95 masks: Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Vermont, and West Virginia.
  • Surgical masks: Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Moving forward, both elected officials and nursing homes in these states will have to work harder to make sure that staff has the basic tools necessary to keep residents safe.

Questionable Decisions Brought COVID-19 to Nursing Homes in Several States

Once COVID-19 is in a nursing home, it can quickly spread throughout the vulnerable resident population. Yet governors in California, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania forced these facilities to accept untested and COVID-19 positive patients from hospitals.

At the height of the pandemic, New York sent more than 6,300 recovering coronavirus patients to nursing homes. The results were devastating.

In July, lawmakers on the House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis sent a letter to the governors of each state. According to Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-LA):

“The decision of several governors to ignore federal protocols and instead mandate COVID positive patients be forced back to their nursing homes ended up being a death sentence for tens of thousands of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.”

All of these states have since scrapped the deadly policy, but the damage was done. In the words of Representative Jackie Walorski (R-IN):

“Just about the worst possible thing to do is knowingly introduce coronavirus to the most vulnerable populations, yet that’s exactly what several states did by mandating nursing homes accept infected patients.”

Over the winter, cases will continue to spike around the country, and hospitals are likely to have more patients than they can handle. Hopefully, this time elected officials will respond with solutions that don’t put nursing home residents in grave danger.

Be an Advocate for Nursing Home Residents

As states consider lockdowns and new outbreaks emerge, those with family in nursing homes may face separation. Visitation may be limited or restricted, depending on the facility.

Staying in contact may be difficult, but there are ways to advocate for loved ones in nursing homes during COVID-19. With a vaccine on the horizon, it is more important than ever to keep our elders safe.

If you are worried about the care that your loved one is receiving, you can always call a nursing home abuse lawyer. They understand the rights of a resident and the responsibilities of those who provide care.

You can also get in touch with your state and local elected officials. Urge them to do whatever they can to get nursing homes and their staff the PPE, testing supplies, and support they need.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: November 30, 2020

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  4. U.S House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis (2020, July 6) Scalise Demands Answers From Governors on Nursing Home Tragedies. Retrieved November 27, 2020, from
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