SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — COVID-19 has been especially severe for older folks, which means many nursing homes were hit very hard by the pandemic, with tragic story after tragic story of residents lost to the virus.

While vaccine rates in nursing homes have flipped the script, the pandemic has in many ways made the future of nursing homes, already somewhat perilous, even less certain.

So what's next for nursing homes?

In the ninth episode of NewsMD podcast "The Health Variant," host and Health Correspondent Jeremy Fugleberg interviews what might seem like a surprising source on this subject: Tu-Uyen Tran.

Tran, a former reporter and editor at Forum Communications, is now a senior writer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. He recently dug into the data and talked to industry experts to report on the state of play in the region's nursing homes, where many rural counties have just one nursing homes, or none at all.

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What he found shows how unclear the future is for nursing homes, but also charts a path forward. Find Tran's reporting on nursing homes on the Minneapolis Fed website.

"The Health Variant" podcast digs into health topics important to the region — such as the COVID-19, cannabis and telehealth — introduces listeners to must-know places and people and offers behind-the-scenes reporting.

NewsMD is a Forum Communications brand focusing on health and health care reporting, primarily in the Upper Midwest, including coverage of industry news, research, trends, technology, economic and policy issues.

"The Health Variant" is available on major podcast apps, including:

For comments or podcast episode topic suggestions, contact Fugleberg at jfugleberg@forumcomm.com or on Twitter: @jayfug.