logo International Long-term care Policy Network (ILPN)Rachel Werner (Penn Population Aging Research Center (PARC)), Edward Norton (Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging (MiCDA)) et al assess state responses to the coronavirus pandemic related to nursing homes in the first half of 2020 in a new article in the Journal of Long-Term Care.

Van Houtven, C., Miller, K., Werner, R.M., and Norton, E.C., et al 2021. State Policy Responses to COVID-19 in Nursing Homes. Journal of Long-Term Care, (2021), pp.264–282. DOI:


Context: COVID-19 has a high case fatality rate in high-risk populations and can cause severe morbidity and high healthcare resource use. Nursing home residents are a high-risk population; they live in congregate settings, often with shared rooms, and require hands-on care.

Objectives: To assess state responses to the coronavirus pandemic related to nursing homes in the first half of 2020.

Methods: An in-depth examination of 12 states’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in nursing homes through June 2020, using publicly reported information such as government decrees, health department guidance, and news reports.

Findings: No state emerged as a model of care. All states faced difficulty with limited availability of testing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). State-level efforts to increase pay and benefits as a strategy to enable infected staff to quickly physically separate from residents were minimal, and other separation strategies depended on the ability to obtain test results rapidly and on state rules regarding accepting discharged COVID-19 patients into nursing homes. Visitor restrictions to reduce risk were ubiquitous, though based on a slim evidence-base.

Limitations: The information used was limited to that which was publicly available.

Implications: Overall, the results suggest that the states that handle the ongoing pandemic in nursing homes best will be those that find ways to make sure nursing homes have the resources to follow best practices for testing, PPE, separation, and staffing. Evidence is needed on visitor restrictions and transmission, as states and their citizens would benefit from finding safe ways to relax visitor restrictions.