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Infection rates slow at St. Louis County nursing homes where nearly 500 have died of COVID-19

Infection rates slow at St. Louis County nursing homes where nearly 500 have died of COVID-19

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY — The rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths among nursing homes in St. Louis County has dropped dramatically since the start of the pandemic, according to an August report by county health officials.

Deaths at nursing homes fell to 33 in August among 306 new infections that month. In comparison, the county reported 212 deaths and 681 cases in May.

In all, the virus has killed 494 and infected 2,320 residents of 98 state-licensed long-term care facilities in the county since March, the report says.

Officials stressed Friday the marked decline from the pandemic’s start, before nursing homes closed their doors to visitors and officials started screening employees for symptoms.

“As distressing as these numbers are,” said County Executive Sam Page, “the report shows that the vast majority of cases occurred early on in the pandemic before many of our protective measures were fully in place.”

He specifically touted the efforts of a county task force formed to further supply homes with protective equipment, COVID-19 testing and aid in cleaning the facilities over recent months.

Nursing homes nationwide have been hard hit by the virus, which is particularly dangerous to older adults and can exacerbate otherwise nonfatal medical conditions such as asthma.

As of Aug. 30, 53,196 residents of federally licensed nursing homes across the country have died of COVID-19 and 216,219 others have been infected, according to the latest data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In recent weeks, COVID infection rates have surged primarily among people younger than 40 in Missouri, but older adults still make up the majority of deaths, according to an August report by the nonprofit Leading Age. Health officials have warned that the virus’ spread can continue to impact nursing homes despite facilities remaining closed to visitors, and nursing homes continue to ask for help paying for tests and preventative measures.

According to St. Louis County records, long-term care facilities account for 12% of the virus’ spread in the county and about 66% of all COVID-19 deaths.

The county report Friday also added 216 COVID-19 infections from March through July that weren’t previously counted before. The delayed reporting of the cases, the county report said, occurred after the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services updated records in early August.

St. Louis County is the only local agency in the region to identify the number of infections and deaths in nursing homes.

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Reporter covering breaking news and crime by night. Born in Algeria but grew up in St. Louis. Previously reported for The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi and at the Wichita Eagle in Wichita, Kansas.

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