Many nursing home cases were among staff

In many ways the most important new data on COVID-19 released by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is a report on nursing homes. Not all states have been as forthcoming with information on individual long-term care facilities.

As you may have suspected, most of the COVID-19 deaths in our state — 21 of the total of 38 counted by Wednesday — have been at nursing homes. Jackson, Wayne, Monongalia and Kanawha counties have experienced nursing home deaths from the virus.

COVID-19 is so serious among nursing home residents because they tend to be older people, often with pre-existing medical conditions. Staff members, usually younger and in reasonably good health, are not as vulnerable. That difference in susceptibility is reflected in the DHHR’s figures. More than half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been at nursing homes.

But the numbers indicate another troubling aspect of the disease: Of the 235 nursing home cases, 98 — nearly about 41% — were among staff members.

No doubt public health officials are looking into that, learning whether the staff members caught COVID-19 from their patients — or the other way around. If nursing home employees have been bringing the coronavirus into their facilities, a serious problem exists.

Of the nursing homes covered in the DHHR’s report, just three have recorded more than one fatality. Every life is precious, of course.

But learning the disease has invaded just 19 of our state’s approximately 124 nursing homes is encouraging. Bless nursing home staffs and officials who have achieved such a life-preserving record.


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