Covid-19 Penetration Rate Averages 1.4% in Assisted Living, 4.3% in Memory Care

As the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. heads toward its fourth month, senior living operators have a better idea of how deeply Covid-19 is in communities by care level, and how they have deployed testing in response to the crisis.

Data about infection rates and testing at a specific care level can assist operators in their efforts to educate the public about long-term care segments, according to the latest executive survey insights report from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). The industry association surveyed 105 senior housing and skilled nursing operators from across the nation between May 9 and June 21.

NIC focused its latest insights on Covid-19 penetration percentages, NIC President Brian Jurutka told SHN.

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NIC’s latest survey is geared toward capturing incremental changes in penetration rates, which can serve as a more accurate barometer of the industry’s response to the virus as the pandemic continues, and illustrate how operators are keeping residents and staff safe at each care level.

“The data that currently exists out there is largely cumulative data. What we wanted to do was get a sense as to all the changes that have been made, as it pertains to visitation or availability of PPE, more availability of testing or even changes in operational procedures,” he said.

Testing for Covid-19 varies by care segment, from 9.8% among independent living communities to 34.2% for skilled nursing facilities, the survey revealed. Confirmed and suspected positive cases also vary by segment, from 0.3% for independent living to 6.7% for skilled nursing.

Courtesy NIC

NIC hopes that the data can be used to educate the broader population, as well as media outlets covering the pandemic at large, about the different segments in long-term care — a common complaint among providers and industry groups.

“It’s important, both from an opportunity perspective as well as a transparency perspective, to understand the difference in covered penetration by care segment as the sector would think about it. But it’s also the opportunity to educate a broader audience [about] the differences in the populations that are being served by each one of these care settings,” Jurutka said.

Separating skilled nursing from assisted living and memory care provides a clearer view of how operators are keeping residents safe at the higher senior living care levels. For assisted living providers, the average Covid-19 penetration rate is 1.5%, compared to 4.3% among memory care respondents.

This speaks to the challenges providers have in protecting memory care residents from the virus, as these populations require higher levels of social engagement and stable daily routines to reduce the chances of agitation.

NIC believes that more operators sharing data in future surveys will provide greater clarity on the industry’s response to the pandemic.

“We can get a larger sample and, over time, have the opportunity of getting additional metrics or more granular data that would allow additional analyses to be done,” Jurutka said.