If an industry could be dubbed a confirmed coronavirus case, that industry would be the nursing home sector. After senior housing — of which nursing homes are one property type — came off a record year of more than $7 billion in private transactions during 2019 and entered 2020 with strong investor interest, the coronavirus struck nursing home facilities with magnum force, killing more than 25,000 of its residents as of this writing and revealing a host of problems dogging the business, including crowded facilities, overwhelmed staff members and a shortage of personal protective equipment.
One particularly dire situation was found at the Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Richmond, Va., which has seen at least 40 of its residents die. When site administrators tested the facility’s full population to assess the scale of the situation, they were horrified to find the virus pervasive and many residents asymptomatic.
The feds are now requiring nursing homes to report to patients and their families when there are COVID-19 cases in their facilities.
The Canterbury senior care center is hardly alone. The virus so far has infected more than 143,000 residents at some 7,500 U.S. nursing homes, killing at least 25,600 residents and workers. Those statistics, compiled and reported by The New York Times, show nursing homes have accounted for roughly one-third of all U.S. coronavirus deaths, which totaled 79,000 as of this writing.
The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) reports that, for many facilities, occupancy rates have declined and move-in rates decelerated. The decline in occupancy rates through the week ending April 19 hit all senior care segments when compared with the prior month, with the deepest declines reported for the nursing care segment. About 40 percent of organizations reported occupancy declines of 10 percent or more from the prior month, according to NIC, up from about 20 percent reporting an occupancy decline of 10 percent for the week ending April 12.
The independent living segment saw the most occupancy stability, while about one-third of memory care units, and around one-half to two-thirds of assisted living units and nursing care beds reporting slumps in their occupancy rates compared to the prior week. NIC says the stats indicate continued weakness for the near future.
In response to COVID-19’s impact on senior care facilities, NIC has launched several initiatives one of them an “executive insights survey” that takes the pulse of hundreds of operators representing thousands of U.S. properties. The survey results and analysis are now published weekly on the NIC Notes blog. The senior executives who respond to the survey are also invited to leave written comments and concerns, many of which reflect the human impact of the crisis, reports the NIC.
Indeed, one executive wrote, “We do our best; under the current scenario, the worst isn’t here yet.”
Another executive put the escalating urgency of the situation more bluntly: “We feel we are alone in a war zone.”
Mike Consol (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.