Half of All Coronavirus Deaths in Some European Countries Are Happening in Care Homes, Data Suggests

Residents of assisted living facilities reportedly account for about half of all COVID-19 deaths in five European countries.

Care homes in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and Ireland have been a concentrated source of death during the pandemic, according to a report released Sunday by the International Long-Term Care Policy Network, an academic research group based at the London School of Economics.

A majority of Spanish COVID-19 deaths, 57 percent, were from patients living in care homes. Majorities were also seen in Ireland, with residents of the facilities making up 54 percent of deaths, while in Italy the figure was 53 percent. Over 44 percent of French deaths and 42 percent of deaths in Belgium were linked to care homes.

The report cautions that statistics were gathered from different sources depending on country. The Italian figure was extrapolated from a survey conducted by an official institute in the country, while statistics for Spain were based on numbers reported by the media. Statistics for the other three countries were derived from official government data.

"Care homes are places where physical distancing is almost impossible. It's like a perfect storm: a susceptible population, not being able to implement the measures and the staff are not well supported and trained enough," Adelina Comas-Herrera, one of the report's authors, told The Guardian. "Many of the staff are care assistants with very little medical knowledge."

Assisted Living Facility Bed
Health experts have cautioned that preventative measures must be strictly followed to prevent COVID-19 from spreading among vulnerable residents of assisted living facilities. Wavebreakmedia/Getty

In late February, a Life Care Center assisted living facility in Kirkland, Washington was tied to the first reported U.S. COVID-19 deaths. A majority of the facility's residents contracted the virus, with dozens dying due to complications. The company was later fined over $600,000 for alleged failings in their response to the outbreak.

The exact number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths from infections contracted by residents at assisted living facilities is unclear, partly because the government has not been releasing statistics. However, the Associated Press reported Monday that more than 3,600 deaths have been residents of the long-term care facilities. Some experts believe the number is likely to be higher due to underreporting and deficiencies in testing.

"One of the critical areas is, of course, long-term-care facilities. We now have over 400 long-term-care facilities in this nation that have now outbreaks," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield told WABE on March 30. "We're constantly going into those care facilities trying to limit these outbreaks or obviously trying to prepare other assisted living centers."

Newsweek reached out the CDC for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Half of All Coronavirus Deaths in Some European Countries Are Happening in Care Homes, Data Suggests | News