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“We may never know the full scope of this tragedy”

Published on June 16th, 2020

Since the start of the pandemic, the nursing home population has fallen by more than 130,000 residents, or 10%. The occupancy decrease reflects several factors, including families who chose to remove their loved ones from facilities, deaths and people who opted not to enter nursing homes amid the pandemic.

In May, CMS finally started requiring nursing homes to submit some COVID-19-related data to the Centers for Disease Control. The data released by CMS includes suspected and confirmed deaths from COVID-19, occupancy levels and the amount of personal protective equipment on hand.

The figures revealed that nearly 36,000 residents and 600 workers in U.S. nursing homes have died from COVID-19. Overall, more than 100,000 residents and 35,000 workers have gotten sick in the U.S. from the virus. The number of coronavirus deaths and cases among facility’s residents and workers is now publicly available on the Nursing Home Compare website.

The initial CMS data has limitations. Only 80% or 12,000 nursing homes out of the nation’s total of 15,000 submitted data, and nursing homes chose not to report COVID-19 deaths prior to May.

Two Senators are calling out the federal government for releasing “incomplete data” on COVID-19 in nursing homes.

The data doesn’t “come close” to providing a complete picture on what’s needed to sufficiently respond to outbreaks in long-term care facilities, according to Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“The data is shockingly sparse, and lacks reporting by almost one in five nursing homes. Nursing homes were not required to submit data on cases and deaths before May 1, meaning we may never know the full scope of this tragedy,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

“This decision to provide far less than full transparency represents yet another failure by this Administration to do right by the millions of nursing home residents, workers and families irreversibly harmed by this terrible virus,” they added.

Officials released findings that suggest lower-rated facilities more likely to have large numbers of COVID-19 cases than facilities with five-star ratings. That means facilities with a poor compliance history or poor survey history are more likely to have larger outbreaks.  That contradicts findings from studies that first indicated no “meaningful” relationship between a nursing homes’ rating and the probability of it having at least one COVID-19 case.

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