In a sign of the times, tough times, Brookdale Senior Living just announced its November occupancy results, and the numbers are sobering. Average occupancy for the month was 72.8%, a drop of 100 basis points from October, which was double the October drop of “just” 50 basis points. That is a cumulative decline in occupancy of 990 basis points since March. If the winter months are going to be as bad as Dr. Fauci is predicting, it is quite possible that we will start to see sub-70% occupancy levels. That will be a disaster.
What is interesting in the case of Brookdale is that 89% of its communities were still open for move-ins as of November 30, so that is not the problem providers were facing last spring when they could not accept new residents. What is keeping customers out, if that is why census keeps dropping? Brookdale is doing a lot of virus testing and has improved its infection control, and we are sure the sales team is telling everyone that. We believe part of it may be the time of year, as few people want to make the move between October and January. “Wait until the Holidays are over,” has always been the typical refrain.
Their residents, at least those who agree to get it, will be in the first wave of vaccinations in the first quarter, which will help. And by late next year, COVID should not be the issue for senior living communities. But if occupancy bottoms below 70% by the end of the first quarter, that will be a lot of units to fill, for everyone.