closeup of nurse in a corridor

The number of caregivers reporting for work at dozens of nursing homes dropped significantly on some of the deadliest days of the pandemic. That’s according to a Wall Street analysis published Sunday examining payroll-based daily staffing data released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The analysis found that more than 300 skilled nursing facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks reported at least one day in the second quarter in which staffing levels fell more than 40% below their levels for the same day last year. April appeared to be the most hard hit, with many facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks reporting staffing shortfalls more than twice what was typical at those facilities in the months before the pandemic, according to the data.

For example, staffing levels at Atrium Post Acute Care in Park Ridge, NJ, were at least 30% below 2019 levels for 19 straight days in April. The facility was in the midst of an outbreak at the time that ultimately killed 34 residents, state data show. 

April’s staffing shortages most often were triggered by waves of illness among staff members, quarantine requirements for people potentially exposed to the virus and call-outs due to fear of infection and lack of child care. 

The analysis also showed that by late August, some hard-hit nursing homes had seen their staffing ratios improve. This likely was due to declining numbers of residents — due mainly to COVID-19 deaths and a lack of new admissions — as existing staff members returned to work to care for a smaller number of residents, experts including David Grabowski, Ph.D., a professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, suggested.

This article appeared in the McKnight’s Business Daily, a joint effort of McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.