Why are so many nursing home residents dying of COVID-19?

Infectious disease Doctor Ruth Berggren answers your COVID-19 SAQs

SAN ANTONIO – According to Doctor Ruth Berggren from UT Health, 80% of COVID-19 related deaths are people over the age of 64. With multiple coronavirus outbreaks at local nursing homes, one KSAT viewer asked Dr. Berggren:

Why is the death toll from the virus so high in nursing homes? What can we do about it?

“People in nursing homes, as you know, aren’t just older, they frequently have multiple underlying medical conditions that make somebody vulnerable,” Berggren said. Another factor is the living arrangements within the nursing home. She said most nursing homes don’t have many private bedrooms or bathrooms. Nursing home residents often have roommates. There are also multiple shared facilities throughout the nursing home like cafeterias, craft rooms, and patios.

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Another increased risk factor in nursing homes is the mobility of caregivers.

“Caregivers go from room to room and so you could have spread if the caregivers are not maximally using their PPE and remembering about their hand hygiene,” Berggren explained.

Berggren also compared nursing homes to the Bexar County jail. Both are facilities with seemingly controlled populations with staff who come in and out daily. Just like detention deputies risk bringing the virus into the jail or out into the community, caregivers run the same risk.

RELATED: Why everyone should care about the COVID-19 outbreak at the Bexar Co. Jail

Watch Dr. Berggren’s full interview on the News at 9 below.

Find more answers and ask your own questions on our SAQ page. Watch anchor Steve Spriester ask local leaders your questions weeknights at 6 p.m. on KSAT12 and 9 p.m. on KSAT-TV and KSAT.com. You can also sign up for our free SAQ newsletter to get answers to the most common questions in your inbox.

About the Authors

A San Antonio native currently in her dream job as the executive producer behind KSAT special programming like Fiesta parades, Dia De Los Muertos and the Rodeo special. When she's not prepping for these productions, she's helping run KSAT's social media channels.

Steve Spriester started at KSAT in 1995 as a general assignments reporter. Now, he anchors the station's top-rated 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.

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