Yale Study of CT Nursing Home Residents Shows 28 Percent Tested Positive For Coronavirus
Hartford Courant, August 14, 2020
By David Altimari
In late March, as the death toll from the coronavirus inside the state’s nursing homes started to rise and outbreaks were occurring almost daily, state Department of Public Health officials turned to epidemiologists at the Yale School of Public Health — a collaboration that led to an all-encompassing testing strategy that has slowed the deaths to a trickle.
On Wednesday, Yale published the results of its work with DPH, which showed more than 28% of the nursing home residents randomly tested in the joint study tested positive for the coronavirus.
But Yale Professor Sunil Parikh said more importantly the study shows a way forward to stop the spread of COVID-19 through long-term care facilities with vulnerable residents.
“I have never seen anything like the way this virus spread through these facilities” Parikh said. “I hope what people realize from this study is that if you want to contain the virus in nursing homes, then you better test everybody or else you will never control it.”
As of Thursday there had been 2,849 COVID deaths in the state’s 215 nursing homes — about 64% of the total numbers of deaths in the state.
High infection rate back to top
Yale officials tested 2,117 nursing home residents in total and found 601 people had contracted the virus, or about 28%. Parikh said that is an “incredibly high” infection rate especially when you consider DPH was already monitoring infection control in nursing homes through spot inspections.
Parikh said the study found of the 601 positive cases, approximately 90% of the patients were asymptomatic at the time of testing, meaning there was no way for nursing home officials to know they had the virus without testing, which was in short supply in April when the deaths inside the state’s long-term care facilities exploded.
The study found that only a small number of the patients who tested positive went on to develop symptoms over the next few weeks.
“Point prevalence surveys are a necessary tool to get a handle of the state of an outbreak in nursing homes,” Parikh said. “Without widespread testing of all residents, it would have been impossible to effectively institute proper infection control measures, such as isolating infected, uninfected and exposed residents from one another.”
Yale students and faculty helped create the point prevalence surveys where everyday nursing homes entered their case data — how many patients had gone to the hospital, how many had tested positive and how many had died.
The joint effort with the Department of Public Health was unusual because it was a real-time collaboration, not a collecting of data that would be published a year later.