State mandates bi-monthly COVID-19 testing for nursing homes, outbreaks shortening

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- Deaths at nursing homes in North Carolina are nearing 1,000. North Department of Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said she’s taking a five pronged approach to keep that number from rising.

“As I said from the very beginning of this pandemic, we knew this would be hard and complicated work,” said Dr. Cohen.

The state’s approach to nursing homes starts with prevention through supplying more PPE. Dr. Cohen said Friday the state has supplied facilities with a two-week supply of PPE.

They’re also providing more oversight by inspecting all 428 nursing home facilities in the state. Dr. Cohen announced the state was making increased referrals and allowing out-of-state reciprocity to beef up staffing.

Through a new providing technical assistance to manage outbreaks.

All nursing homes are now required to test each staff member every two weeks. The state now agreed to pay for that testing through CARES Act funding through November.

Dr. Cohen said state numbers show the duration of an outbreak at nursing homes is shortening. In March, every outbreak lasted longer than 6 weeks. In April, about 70 percent of outbreaks lasted more than six weeks. As of June, about half of nursing home outbreaks were under that.

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The state says the number of people getting sick is dropping too. CBS 17 digital data reporter, Joedy McCreary found in the last few weeks, there were an average of 21 infected people at active outbreaks. The graph below shows that change over time since March.

“There is still more work to do,” said Dr. Cohen.

Dr. Cohen said the measures so far have worked. She noted North Carolina is doing much better than other states when it comes to average number of nursing home cases per 1,000 residents.

The state recorded 94.8 cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes per 1,000 residents. Ohio, Kentucky and Colorado were at about the same percentage.

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New Jersey was in the worst spot for cases per 1,000 residents reaching about 350. It’s neighbors, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island were close behind.

Lower populated or isolated places like Guam, Alaska, Hawaii and Montana had the lowest numbers of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes per 1,000 residents.

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