COVID-19 and Long Term Care

Collection of articles on COVID and LTC is available here

COVID-19 and Resident Care

A Qualitative Analysis of Management Perspectives on Seeking to Implement the Foster Cat Project in Residential Aged Care in the Context of COVID-19.
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Armitt KA, Young J, Boucaut R.
Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Dec 31;20(1).
This study explores the challenges facing a pilot project aiming to foster homeless cats in an Australian residential aged care facility. The global COVID-19 pandemic stalled the project but also presented an opportunity to gain reflective insights into the perceived barriers, enablers and tensions involved in seeking to implement pet animal inclusion in residential aged care. Perspectives from aged care management, animal welfare services and researchers/project managers were all sought using semi-structured interviews, and themes developed using a qualitative descriptive analysis. Perceived barriers to the project before and after the pandemic were not dissimilar with four key themes emerging: competing priorities, risk and safety, resources, and timing. All existed differently across stakeholder groups creating tensions to be negotiated. These themes are then mapped to the competencies established by the International Union of Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) for undertaking health promotion, demonstrating that this skill base can be drawn on when seeking to implement human-animal inclusive projects. Creating supportive healthful environments for frail older persons is a moral imperative of extended lives. Health Promotion skills as outlined in the Ottawa Charter and IUHPE competencies for health promotion workers need to be extended to include animal services, agendas and cultures to promote multi-species health promotion into the future.

The effectiveness of Paxlovid treatment in long-term care facilities in South Korea during the outbreak of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.
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Park H, Park YJ, Lee HY, Yu M, Song YJ, Lee SE, et al.
Osong Public Health Res Perspect. 2022 Dec;13(6):443–7.
OBJECTIVES: On November 5, 2021, Pfizer Inc. announced Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir +ritonavir) asa treatment method that could reduce the risk of hospitalization or death for patients withconfirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). METHODS: From February 6, 2022 to April 2, 2022, the incidence of COVID-19 and the effectsof treatment with Paxlovid were analyzed in 2,241 patients and workers at 5 long-term carefacilities during the outbreak of the Omicron variant of severe acute respiratory syndromecoronavirus 2 in South Korea. RESULTS: The rate of severe illness or death in the group given Paxlovid was 51% lower thanthat of the non-Paxlovid group (adjusted risk ratio [aRR], 0.49; 95% confidence interval [CI],0.24-0.98). Compared to unvaccinated patients, patients who had completed 3 doses of thevaccine had a 71% reduced rate of severe illness or death (aRR, 0.29; 95% CI, 0.13-0.64) and a65% reduced death rate (aRR, 0.35; 95% CI, 0.15-0.79). CONCLUSION: Patients given Paxlovid showed a lower rate of severe illness or death and alower fatality rate than those who did not receive Paxlovid. Patients who received 3 dosesof the vaccine had a lower rate of severe illness or death and a lower fatality rate than theunvaccinated group.

Dementia and psychotropic medications are associated with significantly higher mortality in geriatric patients hospitalized with COVID-19: data from the StockholmGeroCovid project.
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Secnik J, Eriksdotter M, Xu H, Annetorp M, Rytarowski A, Johnell K, et al.
Alzheimers Res Ther. 2023 Jan 6;15(1):5.
BACKGROUND: Dementia and psychotropic medications are discussed as risk factors for severe/lethal outcome of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We aimed to explore the associations between the presence of dementia and medication use with mortality in the hospitalized and discharged patients who suffered from COVID-19. METHODS: We conducted an open-cohort observational study based on electronic patient records from nine geriatric care clinics in the larger Stockholm area, Sweden, between February 28, 2020, and November 22, 2021. In total, we identified 5122 hospitalized patients diagnosed with COVID-19, out of which 762 (14.9%) patients had concurrent dementia and 4360 (85.1%) were dementia-free. Patients’ age, sex, baseline oxygen saturation, comorbidities, and medication prescription (cardiovascular and psychotropic medication) were registered at admission. The hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of in-hospital, 30-day, 90-day, 365-day post-discharge, and overall mortality during the follow-up were obtained. Then, the associations of dementia and medication use with mortality were determined using proportional hazards regression with time since entry as a time scale. RESULTS: After adjustment, dementia was independently associated with 68% higher in-hospital mortality among COVID-19 patients compared to patients who were dementia-free at admission [HRs (95% CI) 1.68 (1.37-2.06)]. The increase was consistent post-discharge, and the overall mortality of dementia patients was increased by 59% [1.59 (1.40-1.81)]. In addition, the prescription of antipsychotic medication at hospital admission was associated with a 70% higher total mortality risk [1.70 (1.47-1.97)]. CONCLUSIONS: The clinical co-occurence of dementia and COVID-19 increases the short- and long-term risk of death, and the antipsychotics seem to further the risk increase. Our results may help identify high-risk patients in need of more specialized care when infected with COVID-19.

Administration and Organization

COVID-19 in German Nursing Homes: The Impact of Facilities’ Structures on the Morbidity and Mortality of Residents-An Analysis of Two Cross-Sectional Surveys.
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Preuß B, Fischer L, Schmidt A, Seibert K, Hoel V, Domhoff D, et al.
Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Dec 29;20(1).
The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an exceptional risk to people living and working in nursing homes (NHs). There were numerous cases and deaths among NH residents, especially at the beginning of the pandemic when no vaccines had yet been developed. Besides regional differences, individual NHs showed vast differences in the number of cases and deaths: while in some, nobody was affected, in others, many people were infected or died. We examine the relationship between facility structures and their effect on infections and deaths of NH residents and infections of staff, while considering the influence of COVID-19 prevalence among the general population on the incidence of infection in NHs. Two nationwide German surveys were conducted during the first and second pandemic waves, comprising responses from n = 1067 NHs. Different hurdle models, with an assumed Bernoulli distribution for zero density and a negative binomial distribution for the count density, were fitted. It can be shown that the probability of an outbreak, and the number of cases/deaths among residents and staff, increased with an increasing number of staff and the general spread of the virus. Therefore, reverse isolation of NH residents was an inadequate form of protection, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.

Prevalence and Spread

National Weekly SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR Screening of All Workers in Long-Term Care Facilities Associated with Decrease in Resident Mortality Rate.
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Abu-Fraiha Y, Geva Robinson S, Maimon MS, Hassan L, Grotto I, Gortzak Uzan L, et al.
Gerontology. 2023 Jan 11;
Introduction Outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) have resulted mainly from disease transmission by asymptomatic health care workers. This study examines whether routine screening tests carried out on health care workers can help in reducing COVID-19 outbreaks, morbidity, and mortality of LTCF residents. Methods The study followed a weekly, nationwide, government-funded screening program of LTCF personnel for SARS-CoV-2, by using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction as the main testing technology. It included all residents and employees in Israeli LTCFs who were screened weekly during the second wave of COVID-19, during the time period between July 13, 2020, and November 21, 2020. Results During the study period, 1,107 LTCFs were screened on a weekly basis, including 62,159 HCWs and 100,046 residents. The program screened a median of 55,282 (Range 16,249, min 45,910, max 62,159) employees per week, 0.05-1.5% of which were positive for SARS-CoV-2. LTCF mortality in the first wave accounted for 45.3% of all COVID-19 deaths recorded nationally (252 of 556), and in the second wave this ratio was reduced to 30.3% (709 of 2,337) representing a reduction of 33.8% in expected mortality (P<0.001). A significant reduction was detected also in hospitalization rate (13.59% vs. 11.41%, p<0.001) and elder (≥75 years-old) mortality rate (52.89% vs. 41.42%, p<0.001). 214 outbreaks in the second wave were avoided by early identification of SARS-CoV-2 positive HCWs and successful prevention of subsequent infections in the facility. Conclusions and relevance Routine weekly SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR testing of LTCF employees was associated with reduced national LTCF residents’ hospitalizations and mortality rate.

Neither Race nor Ethnicity Impact the Mortality of Residents of Veterans Affairs Community Living Center With COVID-19.
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Alabdely MH, Kothadia S, Bej T, Wilson BM, Song S, Akpoji U, et al.
J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2023 Jan;24(1):22-26.e1.
OBJECTIVES: COVID-19 disproportionately affected nursing home residents and people from racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. Nursing homes in the Veterans Affairs (VA) system, termed Community Living Centers (CLCs), belong to a national managed care system. In the period prior to the availability of vaccines, we examined whether residents from racial and ethnic minorities experienced disparities in COVID-19 related mortality. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Residents at 134 VA CLCs from April 14 to December 10, 2020. METHODS: We used the VA Corporate Data Warehouse to identify VA CLC residents with a positive SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction test during or 2 days prior to their admission and without a prior case of COVID-19. We assessed age, self-reported race/ethnicity, frailty, chronic medical conditions, Charlson comorbidity index, the annual quarter of the infection, and all-cause 30-day mortality. We estimated odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals of all-cause 30-day mortality using a mixed-effects multivariable logistic regression model. RESULTS: During the study period, 1133 CLC residents had an index positive SARS-CoV-2 test. Mortality at 30 days was 23% for White non-Hispanic residents, 15% for Black non-Hispanic residents, 10% for Hispanic residents, and 16% for other residents. Factors associated with increased 30-day mortality were age ≥70 years, Charlson comorbidity index ≥6, and a positive SARS-CoV-2 test between April 14 and June 30, 2020. Frailty, Black race, and Hispanic ethnicity were not independently associated with an increased risk of 30-day mortality. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Among a national cohort of VA CLC residents with COVID-19, neither Black race nor Hispanic ethnicity had a negative impact on survival. Further research is needed to determine factors within the VA health care system that mitigate the influence of systemic racism on COVID-19 outcomes in US nursing homes.

Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Air and on Surfaces in Rooms of Infected Nursing Home Residents.
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Linde KJ, Wouters IM, Kluytmans JAJW, Kluytmans-van den Bergh MFQ, Pas SD, GeurtsvanKessel CH, et al.
Ann Work Expo Health. 2023 Jan 12;67(1):129–40.
There is an ongoing debate on airborne transmission of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) as a risk factor for infection. In this study, the level of SARS-CoV-2 in air and on surfaces of SARS-CoV-2 infected nursing home residents was assessed to gain insight in potential transmission routes. During outbreaks, air samples were collected using three different active and one passive air sampling technique in rooms of infected patients. Oropharyngeal swabs (OPS) of the residents and dry surface swabs were collected. Additionally, longitudinal passive air samples were collected during a period of 4 months in common areas of the wards. Presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA was determined using RT-qPCR, targeting the RdRp- and E-genes. OPS, samples of two active air samplers and surface swabs with Ct-value ≤35 were tested for the presence of infectious virus by cell culture. In total, 360 air and 319 surface samples from patient rooms and common areas were collected. In rooms of 10 residents with detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA in OPS, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in 93 of 184 collected environmental samples (50.5%) (lowest Ct 29.5), substantially more than in the rooms of residents with negative OPS on the day of environmental sampling (n = 2) (3.6%). SARS-CoV-2 RNA was most frequently present in the larger particle size fractions [>4 μm 60% (6/10); 1-4 μm 50% (5/10); <1 μm 20% (2/10)] (Fischer exact test P = 0.076). The highest proportion of RNA-positive air samples on room level was found with a filtration-based sampler 80% (8/10) and the cyclone-based sampler 70% (7/10), and impingement-based sampler 50% (5/10). SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in 10 out of 12 (83%) passive air samples in patient rooms. Both high-touch and low-touch surfaces contained SARS-CoV-2 genome in rooms of residents with positive OPS [high 38% (21/55); low 50% (22/44)]. In one active air sample, infectious virus in vitro was detected. In conclusion, SARS-CoV-2 is frequently detected in air and on surfaces in the immediate surroundings of room-isolated COVID-19 patients, providing evidence of environmental contamination. The environmental contamination of SARS-CoV-2 and infectious aerosols confirm the potential for transmission via air up to several meters.

Severity of COVID-19 among residents in aged care facilities in Victoria, Australia: A retrospective cohort study comparing the Delta and Omicron epidemic periods
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Muleme M, McNamara BJ, Ampt FH, Baptista M, Dittmer J, Osborne A, et al.
Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.
ObjectivesDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, no country with widespread community transmission has avoided outbreaks or deaths in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs). As RACFs residents are at high risk of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, understanding disease severity risk factors is imperative.

Implementation, uptake and use of a digital COVID-19 symptom tracker in English care homes in the coronavirus pandemic: a mixed-methods, multi-locality case study.
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Nelson PA, Bradley F, Ullah A, Whittaker W, Brunton L, Calovski V, et al.
Implement Sci Commun. 2023 Jan 17;4(1):7.
BACKGROUND: COVID-19 spread rapidly in UK care homes for older people in the early pandemic. National infection control recommendations included remote resident assessment. A region in North-West England introduced a digital COVID-19 symptom tracker for homes to identify early signs of resident deterioration to facilitate care responses. We examined the implementation, uptake and use of the tracker in care homes across four geographical case study localities in the first year of the pandemic. METHODS: This was a rapid, mixed-methods, multi-locality case study. Tracker uptake was calculated using the number of care homes taking up the tracker as a proportion of the total number of care homes in a locality. Mean tracker use was summarised at locality level and compared. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with professionals involved in tracker implementation and used to explore implementation factors across localities. Template Analysis with the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) guided the interpretation of qualitative data. RESULTS: Uptake varied across the four case study localities ranging between 13.8 and 77.8%. Tracker use decreased in all localities over time at different rates, with average use ranging between 18 and 58%. The implementation context differed between localities and the process of implementation deviated over time from the initially planned strategy, for stakeholder engagement and care homes’ training. Four interpretative themes reflected the most influential factors appearing to affect tracker uptake and use: (1) the process of implementation, (2) implementation readiness, (3) clarity of purpose/perceived value and (4) relative priority in the context of wider system pressures. CONCLUSIONS: Our study findings resonate with the digital solutions evidence base prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting three key factors that can inform future development and implementation of rapid digital responses in care home settings even in times of crisis: an incremental approach to implementation with testing of organisational readiness and attention to implementation climate, particularly the innovation’s fit with local contexts (i.e. systems, infrastructure, work processes and practices); involvement of end-users in innovation design and development; and enabling users’ easy access to sustained, high-quality, appropriate training and support to enable staff to adapt to digital solutions.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infection among long-term care facility staff with and without prior infection in New York City, January-June 2021.
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Peebles K, Arciuolo RJ, Romano AS, Sell J, Greene SK, Lim S, et al.
J Infect Dis. 2023 Jan 10;jiac448.
BACKGROUND: Evidence of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness among persons with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection is accumulating. METHODS: We evaluated the effect against incident SARS-CoV-2 infection of (1) prior infection without vaccination, (2) vaccination (two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine) without prior infection, and (3) vaccination after prior infection, all compared with unvaccinated persons without prior infection. We included long-term care facility staff in New York City aged <65 years with weekly SARS-CoV-2 testing during January 21-June 5, 2021. Test results were obtained from state-mandated laboratory reporting. Vaccination status was obtained from the Citywide Immunization Registry. Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for confounding with inverse probability of treatment weights. RESULTS: Compared with unvaccinated persons without prior infection, incident SARS-CoV-2 infection risk was lower in all groups: 54.6% (95% CI: 38.0, 66.8) lower among unvaccinated, previously infected persons; 80.0% (95% CI: 67.6, 87.7) lower among fully vaccinated persons without prior infection; and 82.4% (95% CI: 70.8, 89.3) lower among persons fully vaccinated after prior infection. CONCLUSIONS: Two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reduced SARS-CoV-2 infection risk by ≥80%, and for those with prior infection, increased protection from prior infection alone. These findings support recommendations that all eligible persons, regardless of prior infection, be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Impact on Health Care Workers

Liability in the Time of Coronavirus: The Ethical Necessity of Expanding the Legal Protections Afforded to Healthcare Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
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Howard M, Kohlmeier PS.
Issues Law Med. 2021 Fall;36(2):163–92.
Although discussions have begun regarding the ways in which healthcare providers and individuals in fields adjacent to healthcare might be exposed to legal sanctions involving COVID-19, the complete scope of the legal risks is still largely unknown. This essay explores how current laws in the United States fail to offer adequate protections: (1) to healthcare workers (HCW) practicing under significantly altered standards of care, and (2) to individuals involved in the allocation of scarce resource decision-making process. Using research on Second Victim Syndrome and Medical Malpractice Stress Syndrome, legal protections are presented to provide HCW a form of “moral buffering” to help prevent further traumatizing them for shouldering extraordinary burdens during the COVID-19 pandemic. In so doing, this article advocates for the passage of appropriate legal protection as not merely a legal issue, but also an ethical one.

Nursing during the COVID-19 pandemic: A reflective thematic analysis of how the hamster wheel shifted personal and professional control.
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Nelson H, Hubbard Murdoch N, Ziefflie B, Norman K, Black MHC, Rudolph S.
Nurs Open. 2023 Jan 19.
AIM: The aim of this national study was to examine the experience of nurses 9-12 months after the onset of the pandemic. DESIGN: This article reports the reflective thematic analysis of the qualitative portion of a mixed methods study of the experiences of 1319 Canadian nurses between February to May 2021. METHODS: Data gathering occurred through open-text box questions in an online survey. RESULTS: Three overarching themes were found: (1) the hamster wheel, (2) the shifting sense of control, and (3) the inability to leave the pandemic at work. CONCLUSION: This research presents a national perspective of nurses which contributes to the wider global narrative. The experience of redeployment, nurses as decision-makers, communication and leadership challenges were all factors impacting mental health and intraprofessional collaboration. IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PROFESSION: The findings revealed the immense pressure, mental health concerns, and professional implications for nurses in all domains. PUBLIC OR PATIENT CONTRIBUTIONS: No public or patient contributions.

A qualitative descriptive study of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on staff in a Canadian intensive care unit.
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Parsons Leigh J, Mizen SJ, Moss SJ, Brundin-Mather R, de Grood C, Dodds A, et al.
Can J Anaesth. 2023 Jan 10;1–11.
PURPOSE: We sought to explore the lived experiences of a professionally diverse sample of healthcare workers (HCWs) in a single intensive care unit (ICU) serving a large and generalizable Canadian population. We aimed to understand how working during the COVID-19 pandemic affected their professional and personal lives, including their perceptions of institutional support, to inform interventions to ameliorate impacts of the COVID-19 and future pandemics. METHODS: In this qualitative descriptive study, 23 ICU HCWs, identified using convenience purposive sampling, took part in individual semistructured interviews between July and November 2020, shortly after the first wave of the pandemic in Ontario. We used inductive thematic analysis to identify major themes. RESULTS: We identified five major themes related to the COVID-19 pandemic: 1) communication and informational needs (e.g., challenges communicating policy changes); 2) adjusting to restricted visitation (e.g., spending less time interacting with patients); 3) staffing and workplace supports (e.g., importance of positive team dynamics); 4) permeability of professional and personal lives (e.g., balancing shift work and childcare); and 5) a dynamic COVID-19 landscape (e.g., coping with constant change). The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to HCWs in the ICU experiencing varied negative repercussions on their work environment, including staffing and institutional support, which carried into their personal lives. CONCLUSION: Healthcare workers in the ICU perceived that the COVID-19 pandemic had negative repercussions on their work environment, including staffing and institutional support, as well as their professional and personal lives. Understanding both the negative and positive experiences of all ICU HCWs working during the COVID-19 pandemic is critical to future pandemic preparedness. Their perspectives will help to inform the development of mental health and wellbeing interventions to support staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.