COVID-19 devastating the elderly at nursing homes across the US

By Kevin Reed
15 April 2020

As President Trump stepped onto the White House lawn on Tuesday evening to boast falsely about “substantial progress in our war against the virus,” the truth of the ongoing devastation caused by COVID-19 was revealed in the staggering numbers of sick and dead now being reported in America’s nursing homes, assisted living and long-term care facilities.

The New York Times identified 2,500 senior and elder care locations nationwide with coronavirus cases. The report says, “More than 21,000 residents and staff members at those facilities have contracted the virus, and more than 3,800 have died.”

These numbers are without doubt an underestimation of the real toll that the pandemic is having on this most vulnerable section of the population. As the Times explained, “Many states, counties and facilities have declined to provide information or provided partial information” regarding the scale and scope of the coronavirus on the elderly in nursing homes across the US. In some cases, this information is being kept a secret by government officials for fear of the reaction by the public and the families of those who are living under increasingly deadly circumstances.

One of the 83 patients evacuated from the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside, Calif. on Wednesday, April 8. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

While all age groups remain susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and can become very sick and die from it, the CDC reports that approximately 75 percent of Americans who have contracted the virus and 78 percent of those who have died from it are 65 years old or older.

Over the last several days, there has been a growing number of reports revealing the horrific situation at nursing home facilities across the country:

With dozens of similar reports in urban, suburban and rural communities across the country, the pandemic is revealing a disturbing fact of life in the US: the nursing home and senior care industry is a vast network of privately owned facilities that are understaffed, paying low wages to workers who are not given adequate training or resources.

The nursing care industry in America has an estimated market value of $139 billion. There are approximately 32,000 establishments, and the industry employs an estimated 1.7 million people. According to an industry analysis published by IBISWorld, “In the past five years, the industry has benefited from an increasingly aging population, which requires greater health care services. Individuals aged 65 and older make up about 90.0 percent of residents at nursing care facilities, so as the population continues to grow older on average, facilities are expected to serve an increasing number of residents.”

Giant corporations have been cashing in on the aging of the US population and, through financial arrangements like government disbursement of Medicaid and Medicare funds for nursing home care, enormous fortunes are being amassed while the quality of life for the largely working class residents steadily declines, as the dire consequences of the pandemic is proving.

Genesis Healthcare is among the largest of the corporations in the “short-term post-acute, rehabilitation, skilled nursing and long-term care services” business. It has annual revenues of $5.7 billion and operates approximately 500 skilled nursing centers and assisted/senior living residences in 34 states with 61,300 employees. George V. Hager, Jr. is the CEO of Genesis Healthcare, Inc., and his total compensation in 2018 was $2,227,887, with $1.2 million in cash salary and the balance in corporate stocks.