The Trump administration has been pointing to a segment of the industry — facilities with low federal ratings for infection control — and to some Democratic governors who required nursing homes to take recovering coronavirus patients.
Homes that followed federal infection control guidelines were largely able to contain the virus, asserts
Verma says data collected by her agency suggest a connection between low ratings on safety inspections and COVID-19 outbreaks. But several academic researchers say their own work has found no such link.
Advocates for the elderly say the federal government hasn’t provided needed virus testing and sufficient protective gear to allow nursing homes to operate safely. A
“The lack of federal coordination certainly has impeded facilities' ability to identify infected persons and to provide care,”
“We need action,” says Sen.
Nationwide, more than 45,500 residents and staff have died from coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to a running count by The Associated Press. That's about 40% of more than 115,000 total deaths. Nursing home residents are less than 1% of the
It's a sensitive election-year issue for President
With more coronavirus legislation possible this year, congressional
During a recent briefing for lawmakers, Rep.
Scalise echoed earlier, less forceful, comments from CMS head Verma, who has said such state orders were “not appropriate” and “may have contributed to this issue as well.”
But Harvard researcher
Instead, Grabowski says it's simpler: Because the virus can be spread by people who show no symptoms, that means if it's already in a community, the staff can unwittingly bring it into the nursing home. Once inside it easily spreads among frail residents living in close quarters.
“The secret weapon behind COVID is that is spreads in the absence of any symptoms,” Grabowski told lawmakers at a recent briefing. “If COVID is in a community where staff lives, it is soon to be in the facility where they work.”
He proposed a federal effort to regularly test nursing home staff and residents, along with greater supplies of masks, gowns and other protective gear.
“The federal government needs to own this issue,” said Grabowski.
He said his own research, along with studies by experts at
CMS head Verma said her agency has been on top of things from the beginning, issuing numerous safety guidelines for nursing homes, setting new coronavirus reporting requirements, and providing Medicare payment for testing residents. She says states have money from the federal government that they can use to support testing of nursing home staff.
The nursing home industry says just one-time testing for every resident and staffer would cost
"Nursing home residents have died from the coronavirus in states governed by
Appearing before Clyburn's committee last week,
"My family was robbed,” Lolley said. “Mama was trapped in a petri dish, and we were shut out. Mama died alone and our family will forever be scarred by this tragedy.”
AP investigative researcher