Nearly 26,000 nursing home residents died from COVID-19

Nearly 26,000 nursing home residents died from COVID-19
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Nearly 26,000 nursing home residents across the country have died from COVID-19, federal officials said Monday, the first public acknowledgement about the scope of the disease in the care facilities.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), states reported more than 60,000 cases of the coronavirus among nursing home residents, and the numbers are likely higher.

The impact on nursing home staff was also staggering. According to the CMS data, there have been more than 34,000 COVID-19 infections among nursing home staff and 449 deaths. 

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The Trump administration has been collecting information on COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes since April and promised to publicly publish the data at the end of May. The CMS promised to release the data this week but cautioned it is not complete.

Only about 80 percent of the country's 15,400 Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes have reported the required data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nursing homes that don't report will be subject to fines. 

 

“This data, and anecdotal reports across the country, clearly show that nursing homes have been devastated by the virus,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma and CDC Director Robert Redfield wrote in a letter to governors.

The official number of cases and deaths will likely increase as more facilities report and more testing programs wrap up in the near future, Verma said.

In addition, facilities were not required to submit cumulative data for the entire pandemic, as the administration requires reporting only for the month of May, when the rule officially took effect. 

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The new data comes after transparency watchdogs and family members have been criticizing state and local health officials, who have been for weeks declining to release data on nursing home COVID-19 cases and deaths, citing privacy issues.

The CMS is tracking only nursing homes. The agency's figures don't include other long-term care facilities, such as assisted living facilities.

According to the federal data, about 1 in every 4 nursing facilities had a COVID-19 case, while 1 in every 5 had a COVID-19 death. The hardest-hit facilities were ones with particularly low quality scores, according to the government's report.  

The agency is cracking down on facilities with poor infection control. Verma said facilities with persistent infection control violations will see increased fines and could be removed from Medicare and Medicaid. 

Verma said the agency will distribute $80 million in CARES Act funding for states to increase targeted infection control surveys of nursing homes during the pandemic. 

States that have not inspected all Medicare-certified homes by July 31 will be required to submit a corrective plan to the government and complete the rest of the surveys within 30 days. If they don't, the states could lose 10 percent of their funds.