What We’re Reading: Delta Variant in Nursing Homes; Financial Burden of COVID-19 Hospitalization; Heat Wave Impact During Pregnancy

Analysis finds significant spike in deaths among nursing home residents due to the Delta variant; hospitalization charges for patients with COVID-19 vary widely; spotlighting the threat of heat waves and extreme weather conditions for pregnant women.

Delta Variant Linked With Spike in Deaths for Nursing Home Residents

As reported by The New York Times, an analysis published recently by Kaiser Family Foundation found a significant spike in deaths among nursing home residents this August, with the 1800 reported deaths representing the highest monthly toll since February. Although remaining substantially lower than that observed last year amid the height of the pandemic, the rise in mortality rates due to COVID-19 in nursing homes may spotlight the need for booster shots in these vulnerable populations and for nursing home employees to be vaccinated as well. Currently, approximately 85% of nursing home residents have been vaccinated against COVID-19, whereas the vaccination rate in nursing home employees stands at 65%.

Varying Hospitalization Charges for COVID-19 Infection

According to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal, costs for similar COVID-19 treatments in hospitalized patients may vary significantly by tens of thousands of dollars, even in the same hospital. Assessing pricing data nationwide, pricing rates for patients with severe respiratory issues ranged from less than $11,000 to more than $43,000, with costs potentially rising further depending on the severity of illness. Notably, costs were indicated to vary by the type of insurer each patient had, with costs for severe respiratory illness at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center reported as $55,182 for patients insured by CVS Health’s Aetna, compared with $94,357 for those covered by Anthem’s Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Threat of Heat Waves for Pregnant Women

Amid a summer marked by extreme heat and weather conditions, an article by NPR addressed the challenges posed by heat waves for vulnerable pregnant women, whose risk of going into labor early, having a stillbirth, or having a baby with low birthweight is increased by rising hot climates. In a 2010 study investigating the effects of heat in California, every extra 10 °F was associated with an 8% increase in preterm birth. Women of color, particularly Black mothers, were reported as notable at-risk populations who continue to present with higher rates of pregnancy complications, preterm birth, and maternal death.