Since the respiratory disease called COVID-19 first appeared in the United States, scientists have frantically studied its effects. Research into the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has unlocked many answers to troubling medical questions, but the scientific community continues to pursue questions about vulnerabilities in specific populations. One of those vulnerabilities may be related to blood type. With nursing home workers’ compensation policies receiving newfound attention, healthcare managers are seeking answers. Are nursing home staff vulnerabilities to the coronavirus somehow related to their blood type?
A Healthcare Crisis: Nursing Homes and COVID
The long-term care industry has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic. According to a continually-updated case database compiled by the New York Times, over 106,000 people linked to nursing homes have lost their lives to complications from COVID-19 as of mid-December, 2020. This staggering number represents about 38% of all U.S. COVID deaths and approximately 5% of the U.S. infections.
While elderly and health-compromised residents of nursing homes have been many of the victims of the virus, it is also their caregivers and support staffs who have been impacted. Nursing home workers’ compensation plans are designed to provide financial support for workers injured or made ill on the job. Even with this required protection, COVID has taken its toll, leaving many individuals unable to work and straining the staffing levels at nursing homes across the country.
Blood Type and COVID Vulnerability?
Blood is a complex fluid that serves numerous functions in the human body. Human blood is classified by type; specific antigens and antibodies determine what type a person’s blood is. Two antigens or antibodies form A and B blood types. Their absence forms the O blood type. Additionally, the Rh factor protein’s presence or absence contributes to positive or negative types. These antigens and antibodies may also combine, resulting in the following blood types:
When the first patients presented with COVID, formally known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus-2 or SARS-CoV-2, researchers began their investigation into what vulnerabilities certain individuals had. Preliminary studies indicated that people with blood types B or O and the presence of antibody anti-A may have a natural ability to ward off the virus. Specifically, the viral particles may not be able to attach to receptors, rendering them unable to spread infection. Further studies showed that O blood types also possess factors that provide protective effects against the viral infection.
The early studies also showed that individuals with A blood types had a higher risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. These studies are preliminary, and the study groups were small. Researchers are continuing to collect data to help pinpoint whether blood type alone or in combination with other factors point to increased or decreased vulnerability to the virus.
Protecting Nursing Home Staff
While it may seem that blood type does influence the susceptibility of an individual to acquire a coronavirus infection, studies are ongoing. Nursing home staff with certain blood types may or may not be more vulnerable to COVID-19; the answer remains unclear. To protect staff and residents of nursing homes, and to supplement the protections of nursing home workers’ compensation insurance policies, facility managers must adopt a multi-pronged risk management approach. Rather than focusing on blood type and the potential for heightened vulnerability, CDC guidelines can protect residents and staff. Guidelines for nursing homes include:
- Minimizing contact with individuals outside the facility by curtailing excursions from and visitors to nursing homes.
- Staff use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks, gloves, gowns, and face shields.
- Isolating residents who test positive for COVID-19.
- Increasing the frequency of rigorous cleaning and sanitizing facility equipment and surfaces.
- Minimizing the use of common areas to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Nursing home workers’ compensation insurance is an important benefit for the staff entrusted with the care of nursing home residents. Even with this valuable protection, it is imperative to protect staff and their residents from COVID-19. By taking the steps needed to minimize contact with potentially infected individuals, nursing homes can continue to deliver the care and support their residents depend on.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.