NPR had a great article about how nursing home caregivers are spreading COVID-19. How and why? Because they have to work at multiple facilities to earn a living wage. Certified nurses aides are not paid well. Very often, just minimum wage. Therefore, many must work at more than one facility. They tend to be predominantly women of color who may be at increased risk.

A team of researchers decided to analyze data of the employees. Using location data from 30 million smartphones  helped the scientists “see” the employees going into and out of nursing homes. The team created maps of movement. They found that on average each nursing home is connected to seven others through staff movement.

The data showed a lot of nursing home workers are working at more than one facility. Chen says the findings show that one source of the spread of infections is staff who work in multiple nursing homes.  Limiting nursing home employees to one facility may lead to fewer COVID-19 infections but it is a Catch-22.  However, that would hurt caregivers who must work multiple jobs because of low wages.

The study also found that some areas of the country have a much higher overlap in nursing home staffing than others. They also found the more shared workers a nursing home has, the more COVID-19 infections among the residents. More than 95,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19 across the U.S.

Maybe we should pay them a living wage with hazard pay as a bonus? Wouldn’t that save thousands of lives?

Mike Dark is an attorney with the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. He said, “We know from past experience that money tends to go into the pockets of the executives and administrators who run these places.” 

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