Nursing Home Staff Across U.S. Hit With Highest Infection Rates Since Pandemic Beginning

The rate of COVID-19 cases reported among nursing home staff in the U.S. reached a new high this week as infection numbers spiked across the U.S.

More than 57,000 COVID-19 cases were reported among nursing home staff members during the week ending on Sunday, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a jump of more than 15,000 cases from the total reported the previous week. Sunday's data showed a rate of 53.41 virus infections reported among staff for every 1,000 nursing home residents.

The rate marks both an uptick over the previous week and a new record of the total number of infections reported in a single week among nursing home staff since the start of the pandemic, with the previous record of 37.26 cases per 1,000 residents recorded just one week earlier.

COVID-19 infections among nursing home residents also increased in the first two weeks of January, with more than 32,000 cases reported to the CDC for the week ending on Sunday. The numbers are just shy of the previous record of new cases reported among nursing home residents in a single week, which CDC data shows was set in December 2020.

Nursing home staff COVID infection rate
The COVID-19 infection rate among nursing home staff members across the U.S. is the highest it has been since the start of the pandemic, CDC data showed this week. Above, a health care worker with American Medical Response, Inc. administers a COVID-19 vaccine at the John Knox Village Continuing Care Retirement Community on January 6, 2021, in Pompano Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The numbers of new infections reported among nursing home staff and residents have risen significantly since the fall, as have cases across the general U.S. population. Health officials have widely attributed the rise in new cases to the spread of the Omicron variant, which was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in late November. Just days after the WHO declared the Omicron variant a "variant of concern," California became the first U.S. state to confirm the variant's presence in a patient who had recently traveled abroad.

Less than one month after its detection in California, cases of the Omicron variant had been confirmed in all 50 U.S. states.

In a Wednesday report issued by the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), industry leaders pointed to the "alarming" rise in COVID-19 cases reported in nursing homes as they called upon public health officials to provide additional support for the facilities.

President and CEO of the AHCA and NCAL Mark Parkinson said in a Wednesday news release that people within the industry had been concerned about a rise in infections once the Omicron variant began spreading in the U.S.

"We urged members of the public to help us protect our nation's seniors ahead of the holiday season, and we reiterate that plea today," Parkinson said in the release. "Help support our frontline caregivers and safeguard our most vulnerable by getting vaccinated, boosted and masked."

The Public Policy Institute of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has also called for additional support from state and federal leaders to help nursing home staff members and residents. The institute has urged local and federal leaders to aid in the prioritization of testing and vaccinations at nursing homes, as well as encouraged data transparency and sufficient staffing.

Newsweek reached out to the AARP Public Policy Institute for comment.