Here at Kendal and Crosslands, we’ve been living under some pretty severe constraints. On the one hand, everyone is grateful that we’ve had very few serious Covid cases; on the other hand, we often hear about other retirement communities where residents have more freedom. Are we being overly cautious?
I went looking for data on Covid cases in CCRCs to see if that would shed light on the situation. Did a stricter lock-down policy actually make a difference? I didn’t find data on Covid in the independent-living population in retirement communities, but there is good data on long-term care facilities. The data includes retirement-community nursing facilities like ours as well as facilities that provide nursing care only (nursing homes).
There is weekly data at both the state and federal level and, for my purposes, the federal data was the best. It is collected by the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network system and is available for download at this link.
The data comes from 14,315 nursing-care facilities across the US. There are 662 just in Pennsylvania. The database contains dozens of variables, but for this blog post I looked only at Covid-19 cases and deaths. The data goes back as far as May 24, 2020. I looked at week-by-week cumulative data from May 24, 2020 (when the data collection began) through March 21, 2021 (the most recent data available when I began working on this post). I should note that there have been occasional criticisms in the press of some Covid data from the CDC. I have no way of really checking, so I have to assume the numbers I downloaded are accurate.
Kendal-Crosslands and other nearby facilities. I selected all facilities in Chester and Delaware County. These two counties contain Philadelphia’s western suburbs. Kendal and Crosslands are in Chester County.
Kendal and Crosslands have done very well compared with other facilities in the area. In the graph below, you can see the number of Covid cases and deaths for all long-term care facilities in our two-county area. The horizontal axis shows the number of Covid cases and the vertical axis shows the number of deaths. The blue circles represent Chester-county facilities; the orange circles are facilities in Delaware County. The size of each circle represents the number of skilled-nursing beds (from 22 to 745) in each facility. I have added the names of a few of the more hard-hit facilities.
The most hard-hit by far was Fair Acres Geriatric Center, just west of Media, which is a large county-run high-rise facility with 745 skilled-nursing beds. At the very beginning of the pandemic, even before much was known about Covid, it experienced a major outbreak. In May, when the data I downloaded begins, Fair Acres already had 178 cases among the residents, and 50 deaths. By March of this year, that had grown to 284 cases and 80 deaths.
Kendal and Crosslands are among the six dots clustered at the origin. These six represent the facilities that have done the best job of containing Covid cases and preventing Covid deaths.
If you would like to explore this data in more detail, you can go to the following link:
At that link, I have saved an interactive version of the graph. You can hover your mouse over any dot to find out the name and details for that facility, and you can use the controls in the upper right-hand corner to step through the weekly data or to have the software automatically play through the weekly sequence.
Among the dots on the chart at the link above, you will find other local CCRCs, such as Freedom Village, White Horse Village, Maris Grove, Dunwoody, and The Quadrangle. None have fared as well as we have.
Looking at the bigger picture. Looking at the national data, only 753 of 15330 facilities (less than 5%) had no deaths, and only 1500 of 15,330 (less than 10%) had fewer than 3 deaths, so we are part of an elite group.
It seems clear from the data that the measures taken in our medical unit were far more effective at preventing the spread of Covid than was the case at most other long term care facilities. That speaks very highly for our strict procedures and our professional medical staff. Be sure to let them know how grateful we are.
Based on the exceptionally low number of cases and deaths in our skilled-nursing facilities (and lacking any other data source), I’m willing to guess that the corresponding data for independent living, if it were available, would show exceptional results too. We may grumble about restrictions, but the sacrifices we have made are probably the key factor that has kept us relatively safe—far safer than we would have been almost anywhere else.