US: emergency PPE supplies for nursing homes will provide just two week’s supply over two months – as COVID-19 deaths in aged care reach 16,000

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As we reported last week, the United States’ Federal Emergency Management Agency had promised to send Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies to all of the country’s 15,600 homes, targeting those with the worst outbreaks.

But it has now been revealed that this supply will only amount to two weeks’ worth of eye protection, masks, gowns and gloves.

The supply will be based on staffing and PPE usage rates and will be provided to each facility over the next two months in two one-week deliveries – leaving a six-week gap in supplies.

President and CEO of peak body LeadingAge, Katie Smith Sloan, has slammed the one-week supply as “wholly insufficient”.

“Pretending a symbolic one-week supply of PPE for select nursing homes is a meaningful solution is an insult to millions of vulnerable Americans, their families, and their caregivers,” she said.

Ms Smith Sloan added that the current situation requires “20 times more PPE than usual”, but the FEMA shipment will deliver “fewer than 8 masks per staff member.”

The LeadingAge CEO also called out the Trump administration for only raising the testing of symptomatic workers and residents to the top priority level because of the large number of asymptomatic cases in nursing homes.

“The only way to avert this slow-motion catastrophe is to provide meaningful amounts of PPE, as well as effective and efficient testing and a comprehensive approach to supporting older adults and the workers who care for them,” Ms Smith Sloan said.

The US President has acknowledged that the federal response to nursing home needs has been inadequate, setting up a national nursing home safety panel to assess the response last week – two months after the US’s first major nursing home outbreak in the Life Care Center aged care home in Seattle.

“It’s a spot that we have to take care of,” Trump said. “I guess you could call it a little bit of a weak spot, because things are happening at the nursing homes that we’re not happy about that. We don’t want that to happen.”

US nursing homes have been some of the worst-hit around the world, with COVID-19 deaths now estimated to be at least 16,000 – almost 25% of the country’s total 68,000-plus deaths – and these numbers likely to be an underestimate as the promised federal reporting of deaths has still not been enacted.