Dec 1, 2020
AARP Bulletin Exclusive: ‘AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY: Nursing Homes and the Pandemic’
16-page Investigative Report Provides an Insider Look at How 54,000 People Died in Just 18 Weeks in America’s Long-Term Care Facilities, and Exactly Who is to Blame
Special Edition Cover Story -- ‘AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY: Nursing Homes and the Pandemic’

WASHINGTON–Less than 1% of America’s population live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, but shockingly, over 40% of all COVID-related deaths have occurred there. Calling this “the crisis within the crisis,” AARP Bulletin this month publishes an expansive and explosive investigative report on exactly what happened in the first four months of the pandemic (spanning March through June of this year) to cause as many nursing home deaths in just 18 weeks as there were U.S. fatalities in roughly 18 years of the Vietnam War.

Then, in Part Two of the report, the Bulletin analyzes the reasons and causes for the calamity, and shows how fragile and flawed America’s nursing home industry has become. (Part Three of the series – on how to fix the problems, both short and long term – will be published in the January-February issue.)

To detail the crisis as it grew, AARP writers interviewed some 70 people to construct an oral history of those fateful early months, when Personal Protective Equipment was in such short supply; knowledge of how the coronavirus spread was unknown; and reactions from governments, regulators and nursing homes themselves often proved misguided and even deadly.

Then the report shows how laws passed decades ago created a nursing home infrastructure based on a hospital model of shared rooms, crowded corridors and a constant flow of people that was exactly the worst scenario for a viral outbreak. The report also takes a bold look at the business of nursing homes: fully 70% are for-profit but rely mostly on meager payments from Medicaid for their revenue. The resulting combination of too few staff, very low pay, and a lack of gear at many facilities all contributed to the crisis.

Other stories in AARP Bulletin include:

Fraud Watch

  • 11 Ways to Stop Fraud Now: This month’s Fraud Watch outlines how to prevent falling victim to the major frauds of 2020. Learn specific actions to add to your new year’s resolution list to avoid mail fraud, identity theft, gift card scams and more.

Your Health

  • Should You Join a Clinical Trial?: These cutting-edge treatments are experimental, but they offer new hope to improve the way diseases are treated. This month’s issue details 12 promising studies that are currently recruiting older Americans, including vaccines and treatments to prevent or lessen the severity of COVID-19, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and more.

Your Money

  • Are Store Credit Cards Worth It?: This holiday shopping season, you’re likely to encounter an offer for a merchant’s credit card promising cash-back deals and special financing. But be warned: These cards typically offer higher interest rates than general purpose credit cards, and the fine-print risks may outweigh the rewards. Find out if some of the most popular store credit cards are right for you in this month’s issue.

Your Life

  • Q&A with Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale author recently published her 16th book of poetry, called Dearly. At 81, Atwood has also published 17 novels, 10 books of nonfiction, three graphic novels and eight children’s books. On her secret to long-lasting creativity streak: “I suppose you could say that I’m not very easily discouraged.” Read Atwood’s lively takes on writing, fame and legacy in this month’s Q&A.

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About AARP 

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media. 


For further information: Danny Alarcon, AARP, 202-538-0105,