Paying the Toll
Return to normalcy has repercussions
It was understandable, if not prudent, that when COVID-19 seemed to be on the run earlier this summer, many Americans decided it was time to go back to what was normal early this year. We are paying the price for that foolhardiness now.
Unfortunately, those paying the grimmest toll had little if anything to say about the matter. They are residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
During stage one of the epidemic, nursing homes were hit hard by COVID-19. We learned their residents, older people, often with underlying medical conditions, were the most vulnerable to the virus. In some states, more than half the total epidemic fatalities were in nursing homes.
That should have made everyone involved leery of dropping safeguards against the disease getting into long-term care facilities. But many friends and relatives of nursing home residents were virtually desperate to see them again. Residents were eager to have company, for that matter.
So many nursing homes dropped or relaxed bans on visitation. Now, what seemed a few weeks ago to be compassion has proved to be a deadly error.
Once again, some nursing homes have become killing grounds for COVID-19. Death tolls in double digits at specific facilities are not uncommon. Nursing homes untouched during stage one of the epidemic are becoming acquainted with its horror.
To date, more than 40% of the more than 170,000 Americans killed by COVID-19 have been in nursing homes.
Many administrators at the facilities have gone back to severe limits including bans on visitors. Some public health officials have ordered that such steps be taken.
Clearly, it is imperative that long-term care facilities be virtually walled off from the outside world — again — except in the rare circumstances where the virus is present in only limited numbers.
Americans have seen what can happen when long-term care facilities are not made fortresses against the coronavirus. If we fail to erect those walls a second time, thousands more older friends, family members and neighbors will die needlessly.