Why is COVID-19 more lethal in American nursing homes?
Su Yi
A patient is loaded into an ambulance at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, near Seattle, March 10, 2020 /AP

A patient is loaded into an ambulance at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, near Seattle, March 10, 2020 /AP

Editor's note: Su Yi is a journalist with China Plus. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

COVID-19 is more lethal in nursing homes and retirement facilities in the U.S, with more than a third of fatalities occurring in nursing homes — the figures go as high as 80 percent in New Hampshire and 50 percent in New Jersey. Cluster transmissions and disproportionately high death rates have also been reported in Europe.

During the beginning of the outbreak in many states, nursing home deaths and infections were often not included in COVID-19 statistics, plus equipment shortages continue to overwhelm the low-paid staff. How can America's significantly advanced healthcare and nursing system become the most dangerous frontline?

Social distancing is not an option for elderly residents, meaning the negligent lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) and testing kits have left them unnecessarily exposed. This is the result of a systematic failure driven in part by politicians advocating Social Darwinism and herd immunization policies. They see lives, especially the elderly, as a necessary price to be paid for the economy.

In the U.S., 70 percent of nursing homes are for-profit, with investors making money by leasing facilities to operators and charging them hefty fees. The narrow margins force the practice of maximizing the number of patients, reducing staff and cutting salaries. Meanwhile, the incentives for greater profits pushes more operators to the high-end market. One retiree in Texas says he would rather live in a hotel, which costs 100 dollars less per day, than a nursing home.

Soul searching is needed on whether there is too much money and not enough government supervision in the sector. When nursing homes record 11 percent of all U.S. coronavirus cases and 35 percent of all deaths, you must question the social safety net and basic human rights of one of the most susceptible groups in the society. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members."

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com.)