Coronavirus vaccinations have begun; this cannot come soon enough for the operators of facilities that house the nation’s elderly.
Senior housing of all kinds—including independent and assisted living facilities, as well as those that offer skilled nursing—have been hit hard by the pandemic, both in human and economic terms. With a particularly vulnerable population, senior facilities have had higher rates of mortality during the crisis; more than 106,000, or 38%, of the U.S. deaths attributed to the coronavirus were linked to nursing homes as of Dec. 4, according to The New York Times.
To protect their workers and residents, operators paid more for medical staff and equipment. On top of this, most properties stopped taking in new tenants, causing occupancy rates to plunge. Occupancy at independent living and assisted living facilities has dropped below 90% and 80%, respectively, and skilled nursing facility occupancy has dropped by more than 10 percentage points this year.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Both health care workers and the elderly have been identified as groups that will be early recipients of the vaccine. Many property operators have already been proactive in connecting with state governments and local pharmacies to get their spot in line. This will lend to unlocking demand that has been pent up over the past year as the sector looks ripe for gains in 2021.