RISE rounds up the latest news concerning COVID-19.

The devastating impact of COVID-19 on nursing home residents in 2020

A new Office of Inspector General (OIG) study examines the impact of COVID-19 on Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes in 2020Among the findings:

  • Two in five Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes were diagnosed with either COVID-19 or likely COVID-19 in 2020
  • Almost 1,000 more beneficiaries died per day in April 2020 than in April 2019
  • Overall mortality in nursing homes increased to 22 percent in 2020 from 17 percent in 2019
  • About half of Black, Hispanic, and Asian beneficiaries in nursing homes had or likely had COVID-19 and 41 percent of White beneficiaries did

The OIG said the results of the study demonstrates the need for action to mitigate the effects of the ongoing pandemic and to avert such tragedies from occurring in the future. The report is the first of a three-part study to better understand the effects of the pandemic and the health disparities within the nursing home population. Subsequent reports will address the characteristics of the hardest hit nursing homes and strategies used by nursing homes to confront the challenges of COVID-19.

CMS: 10M Americans enrolled in Medicaid, CHIP during the COVID-19 public health emergency

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a report this week that shows more than 80 million individuals have health coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Nearly 9.9 million individuals, a 13.9 percent increase, enrolled in coverage between February 2020, the month before the public health emergency (PHE) was declared, to January 2021. The numbers highlight the essential role the Medicaid and CHIP programs play in providing quality and needed coverage for millions of vulnerable children and adults, CMS said.

"This report reminds us what a critical program and rock Medicaid continues to be in giving tens of millions of children and adults access to care,” said Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra in the announcement. “This pandemic taught us that now more than ever, we must work to strengthen Medicaid and make it available whenever and wherever it's needed using the unprecedented investments Congress provided."

CDC director: Nearly every new COVID-19 death is preventable

The greatest threat to the country’s efforts to combat COVID-19 is the dangerous Delta variant, but it primarily poses a risk to unvaccinated people, federal public health officials said during a briefing this week at the White House.

Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said 20.6 percent of new cases in the U.S. are caused by the super contagious Delta variant, noting the proportion of infections due to the variant are doubling every two weeks. “Similar to the situation in the UK, the Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19. Good news: Our vaccines are effective against the Delta variant,” he said.

Indeed, the vaccines are nearly 100 percent effective against severe disease and death, said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky during the briefing. This means that “nearly every death due to COVID-19 is particularly tragic because nearly every death, especially among adults, due to COVID-19 is, at this point, entirely preventable.”

However, she warned that the variant represents a set of mutations that could lead to future mutations that evade the vaccine. Therefore, it’s critical that unvaccinated Americans get vaccinated now to “stop the chain of infection, the chain of mutations that could lead to a more dangerous variant.”