Residents in long-term care facilities (LTCF) are particularly vulnerable during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. In the first wave of the pandemic in many countries, 30-70% of all deaths from or with SARS-CoV-2 were LTCF residents, although their proportion in the population is typically less than 1%. Findings from LTCFs in Frankfurt am Main (March 2020-September 2021) are presented below and discussed in terms of necessary improvements.
The reports of positive PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2 in residents and staff of the LTCF in Frankfurt am Main and their symptoms were descriptively evaluated. In addition, the total deaths in nursing homes from 2018 to June 2021 were surveyed per quarter.
In the first pandemic wave (March-May 2020), 111 SARS-CoV-2-positive LTCF residents were reported to the Public Health Department in Frankfurt am Main, of whom 40% were asymptomatic, 48% were hospitalized, and 23% died. In the subsequent pandemic phases through September 30, 2021, additional 1196 residents infected with SARS-CoV-2 were reported, with most of them being asymptomatic (70%); they were hospitalized less frequently (27%). Mortality was also lower (17.6%). Overall mortality in LTCF was 7.6% higher in 2020 than in 2019 and 1.1% higher than in the “flu year” of 2018.
In contrast to the first wave, when only a few LTCF residents contracted COVID-19, in the second pandemic wave in autumn/winter 2020/21, with high incidences in the general population, SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks in LTCF in Frankfurt could not be prevented, despite extensive hygiene, infection prevention, and contact mitigation measures (including visitor restrictions) that massively limited residents’ quality of life and their personal rights. Only when vaccination rates increased among residents and staff from April 2021 onwards, there were no massive outbreaks. To better protect LTCF residents, an appropriate balance was called for between protecting against infection and avoiding collateral damage by maintaining the freedom and quality of life of nursing home residents as best as possible.

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