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COVID-19 Variants and Understaffed Nursing Homes

A nurse and a senior patient

Warnings Emerge After COVID-19 Outbreak Caused by New Variant of Virus is Detected in Kentucky Nursing Home

The public has been informed of several new variants of the coronavirus for some time, including some of the more known viruses circulating, such as the UK variant, the Brazil variant, or the South Africa variant. But on Mar. 16, 2021, a recent outbreak of COVID-19 involving 41 cases at a nursing home in Eastern Kentucky could be what health officials say was triggered by an entirely new strain. The outbreak involved 14 staff and 27 residents, with several testing positive for the new variant. Health officials in Kentucky say those nursing home residents and staff who have contracted the virus and have been fully vaccinated have not gotten seriously ill and have significantly reduced symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says viruses constantly change through mutation, and “new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear.” At other times, new variants emerge and persist and can be just as dangerous as the initial strain.

Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States during this pandemic.

  • The United Kingdom (UK) identified a variant called B.1.1.7 with many mutations in the fall of 2020. This variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. This variant was first detected in the US at the end of Dec. 2020.
  • In South Africa, another variant called B.1.351 emerged independently of B.1.1.7. Detected initially in early Oct. 2020, B.1.351 shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. Cases caused by this variant have been reported in the US at the end of Jan. 2021.
  • In Brazil, a variant called P.1 emerged that was first identified in travelers from Brazil. This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies. This variant was first detected in the US at the end of Jan. 2021.

According to a report by Kentucky’s public health commissioner Dr. Steven Stack, the outbreak appears to have started when an unvaccinated person brought COVID-19 into the facility. The information has not been released on whether that person was a visitor or a staff member; however, only 48% of staff at the facility had gotten the vaccine.

Some Nursing Homes Are Still Understaffed and Poorly Prepared to Deal with Infectious Disease Outbreaks

The new variants and other types of infectious diseases are more easily spread when nursing home owners put unnecessary pressures on employees caused by understaffing. As we see time and time again, these care failures can lead to medical mistakes, preventable injuries, and increased risk of severe illness and deaths of nursing home residents caused by the coronavirus.

Research from the Nursing Home Abuse Center indicates that as many as 95% of nursing home-type facilities in the US are understaffed. Nurses and support care staff such as nursing assistants and aides are still heavily short-staffed in long-term care settings across the country.

Illinois Nursing Home Negligence Related to Infectious Diseases

If a loved one has sustained a severe infectious disease complication resulting from neglect or missed medical treatments provided by a nursing home or the intentional understaffing of its workforce, we can help. Please reach out to Levin & Perconti, a Chicago-based law firm ready to provide you with a free nursing home negligence consultation at (312) 332-2872.

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