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US to pay more than 9,000 nursing homes for controlling coronavirus infections

US to pay more than 9,000 nursing homes for controlling coronavirus infections
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The Trump administration will pay incentives to more than 9,000 nursing homes for reducing COVID-19 related infections and deaths in the fall.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will split $523 million between those nursing homes beginning Wednesday.

COVID-19 has ravaged nursing homes, with more than 100,000 people dying of the disease in nursing homes and long-term care facilities throughout the pandemic.

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The incentives from HHS will be awarded to the 69 percent of nursing homes that reduced COVID-19 infections and deaths between September and October. 

HHS estimates that nursing homes prevented 3,900 infections, relative to the rates in their communities. 

The agency announced the first round of awardees in October. Medicare and Medicaid pay for stays at nursing homes, but typically do not offer incentives for keeping residents safe. 

Nursing homes have long struggled to follow infection control practices, even before the pandemic. As COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the country, it is likely nursing homes will see more cases, too. 

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, told reporters Monday that nursing homes are “seeing the worst outbreak since last Spring,” with more than 18,000 new cases per week.

COVID-19 deaths are also increasing, topping more than 2,000 per week, he said.

The vulnerability of people living in nursing homes to serious COVID-19 illness and death puts them first in line in many states to be vaccinated.