By Peter Cherry
Based on data gathered by the New York Times, at least 40% of all Coronavirus related deaths in the US have been at nursing homes, targeting the elderly population as well as the low-wage workers who service the facilities.
At least 54,000 of the over 125,500 confirmed Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are residents or workers at these facilities that serve seniors, according to the Times’ data. The virus is known to be the most deadly in older populations and people with immuno-compromising medical conditions. In major cities such as Detroit, New York City, and Cleveland, anywhere between 70 to 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths have happened in these facilities.
These deaths produce suffering on the part of the workers. Many nurses have been expected to work during the pandemic without the necessary protective equipment. Shifts are long and inundated with the emotional turmoil of dying patients. Workers, potentially carrying the virus, must then go home to their families.
Even before COVID-19 broke out, nursing homes were known to be one of the most hazardous places of work in the US, per number of work-related injuries and illnesses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One of the main problems to fighting Coronavirus concerns the very nature of such locations, whose often inhumane and unsanitary conditions are one of the neglectful ways the old state treats the elderly and infirmed in the United States. Nursing home residents and staff are required to work in constant proximity, which is compounded by cuts to funding and the constant efforts by operators of these facilities to maintain profits by cutting provisions for proper personal protective equipment (PPE), frequent testing, and isolation of the infected.
One nurse at a facility in Pittsburgh where there is COVID-19 remarked: “Nursing homes are nasty places to work. I think they are the hardest hit because they are not clean—this spreads the virus and is why you are seeing widespread outbreaks that [the governor] has covered up. We can’t adequately clean our patient’s rooms, social distancing does not really happen, and we can’t even really wash our hands.”
Many state governments have lined up behind hospitals and nursing home owners to protect them from litigation by the families of elderly patients who lose family members to the Coronavirus. One law in New York says that such companies “shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of arranging for or providing healthcare services” regarding COVID-19. The reckless and criminal behavior of capitalist health care is able to run free at this time, as the deaths only mount higher.