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Brace for it to get far worse from here.

In the past fortnight, 34 Victorians have died with COVID-19, more than doubling the state’s death toll from the virus.

But aged care stands as a looming disaster for the state, after a dramatic growth in infections across a growing list of nursing homes.

The total number of infected residents of nursing homes nationwide has quadrupled since the start of the month, from 71 to 292 and counting.

Almost the same number of nursing home staff have also been infected.

Residential aged care homes have been among the deadliest environments in this pandemic.

According to the Federal Government, at least 48 people living in residential aged care homes have died with COVID-19, as well as a further four people receiving in-home care services.

Before the current outbreaks in Victoria began, of the 71 aged care residents infected, 31 died and 40 recovered.

That is, 44 per cent of infected residents didn’t survive, a horrific statistic.

As of Friday, there were 242 residents who were fighting the virus.

There’s a strong likelihood the next few weeks will be grim.

We’ve seen this before

In the first wave of the pandemic, two serious nursing home outbreaks devastated Anglicare’s Newmarch House and the Dorothy Henderson Lodge.

There were 71 infections among staff and residents at Newmarch House alone, and 17 deaths.

Later potential crises in aged care managed to be avoided, including at a nursing home in Rockhampton.

But now there are cases linked to at least 40 aged care homes in Victoria, and some of the outbreaks rival Newmarch House in size.

At St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner, 73 residents and staff have now been infected, while Estia Health at Ardeer has 68 cases and there are 55 linked to Menarock Life Aged Care.

There are clusters of at least 20 cases at each of Glendale Aged Care in Werribee, Embracia Aged Care Moonee Valley, Estia Health Aged Care Heidelberg, Arcare Aged Care Craigieburn, Regis Aged Care in Brighton and Baptcare Wyndham Lodge.

With many homes still curtailing family visits due to the threat of infection, the virus has typically been brought in by staff inadvertently.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is examining how nursing homes manage the crisis and has already taking compliance action, including against Menarock last week.

“The Commission took regulatory action in relation to Menarock Life Essendon Aged Care Services because of significant concerns about the provider’s response to the outbreak and the safety, health and wellbeing of the residents at the service,” commissioner Janet Anderson said last week.

“Menarock Life Aged Care Services has notified the Commission that it has accepted the requirements imposed by the Commission under the regulatory action.”

The regulator has also taken regulatory action in relation to Newmarch House.

It’s hitting young and old

The growing number of serious outbreaks may be one of the reasons more older people are again being diagnosed with COVID-19.

In April, more than a third of Australia’s infections were in people over 60 years of age, despite them making up only a little over a fifth of the population.

But as SARS-CoV-2 started to resurface in Victoria, those infected and spreading coronavirus tended to be younger.

It’s a bit early to draw any definitive conclusions, but the early trends suggest that trend may be reversing, and the virus may once again be starting to skew toward older people.

The ABC’s Digital Story Innovations team is maintaining a database of Australian coronavirus statistics, which you can explore here.

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