The rapid spread of Covid-19 is putting new communities at risk every day — and providers across the country should prepare for an outbreak near them sooner rather than later.
As of Wednesday, almost 53% of roughly 33,000 U.S. senior housing and care communities in the U.S. are located in or adjacent to a county that has at least one reported case of Covid-19, according to new data from senior housing market analytics technology platform VisionLTC. The data includes properties along the entire continuum of care, from independent living to skilled nursing.
The above chart tracks the number of buildings in or adjacent to counties which have reported confirmed Covid-19 cases or deaths. For example, according to the chart, 17,865 of the buildings that VisionLTC tracks are located in or adjacent to counties which have reported confirmed Covid-19 cases, and 1,665 are located in or adjacent to a county which has reported a Covid-19 death.
To arrive at that conclusion, VisionLTC cross-referenced its own U.S. supply database with Johns Hopkins University’s publicly available Covid-19 data.
Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has sickened at least 127,000 people across the globe. As of Thursday morning, there are 1,323 confirmed cases of Covid-19 spread across 46 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., with 38 deaths reported so far, according to Johns Hopkins data. The majority of confirmed cases are located in Washington State, New York, California and Massachusetts — but the overall total is expected to grow rapidly in the coming days and weeks, government officials have warned.
The data illustrates just how quickly the number of new active cases in the U.S. has grown, according to VisionLTC Co-Founder and CEO Arick Morton.
“[Providers] should at least implement the protocols that they would have implemented if or when there is an active outbreak … in the area around their building,” Morton said. “What the data is telling me is that this thing is moving pretty quickly.”
It should come as no surprise that some of the largest senior housing providers in the U.S. are also the ones with the highest exposure to places where outbreaks have been reported.
According to the VisionLTC’s most recent data compilation, the top three senior housing and care companies with the highest number of communities in or near counties with reported outbreaks are Brentwood, Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD); McLean, Virginia-based Sunrise Senior Living; and Kennett Square, Pennsylvania-based Genesis HealthCare.
Many senior housing and care companies in recent weeks have taken measures to delay or mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
“I do think there is a hope, at least among most of the operators I talked to, that they have good infection control processes in place,” Morton said. “And hopefully they’ll be able to very quickly and effectively deal with anything that should arise.”
For Brookdale, which had no confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of Wednesday, the main focus is preventing an outbreak. The company activated its emergency response command center in response to the growing pandemic, and took a number of steps aimed at keeping its employees and residents safe and healthy.
Brookdale recently reinforced its contagious disease policies and procedures with its employees, and has implemented community-level changes such as suspending sponsored or planned group outings and barred groups of three or more people from coming into its communities, save for tours, family visits and third-party clinicians. The company recently made public a toolkit for dealing with Covid-19 that outlines all of the extra steps and precautions it’s taking.
As of Tuesday, Sunrise also reported no cases of Covid-19 in its communities. In addition to implementing its infection control and emergency preparedness programs, Sunrise has also modified its policies regarding resident screening and large gatherings, and has reinforced training with its employees.
And Genesis regularly has convened its senior management team, clinical leadership and chief medical officer to address concerns about an outbreak of Covid-19. The company is also enhancing its employee, patient and visitor screenings and precautions in all of its centers.
REIT shares fall as new cases emerge
Although many providers are now focused on prevention, some senior housing residents have come down with the disease in recent days — and in some cases, that’s translated to losses on the stock market.
Shares in Sabra Health Care REIT (Nasdaq: SBRA) dropped more than 14% Wednesday after it was reported that a resident at a Sabra-owned facility in Washington state had died of Covid-19 and several others were sickened. But the outbreak is so far limited to that one facility, according to Sabra CEO Rick Matros.
“It appears to have been contained,” Matros told SHN. “We have had no incidents at any of our other 600 plus properties.”
Other companies have seen similar drops, including among the “big 3” health care REITs, Welltower (NYSE: WELL), Ventas (NYSE: VTR) and Healthpeak Properties (NYSE: PEAK). Shares for those companies slumped approximately 13%, 14% and 10%, respectively, by the time the markets closed Wednesday.
“The stock today reflects a view that the portfolio will get impacted by a meaningful amount of coronavirus incidences within the SBRA portfolio,” reads a March 11 note to investors from Mizuho Securities. “This fear is also overwhelming other Healthcare REITs with large skilled nursing and senior housing operating platforms such as VTR, WELL, OHI, CTRE, LTC and PEAK.”
Mizuho analysts noted several specific concerns, such as that cross-pollination of staff could make it hard to contain coronavirus within a single facility, and that stigma related to Covid-19 could suppress occupancy even after the virus is cleared from a community.
Other locations hit by Covid-19 outbreaks include Era Living’s Ida Culver House Ravenna community in Seattle; a Carlton Senior Living community in Sacramento, California; and the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, which is linked to the death of 19 residents so far.