With the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 above 100,000, we now have information about how many of those deaths occurred in nursing homes.
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), nearly 26,000 residents of U.S. nursing homes have died from COVID-19 and over 60,000 others have become ill. Those numbers are incomplete, however, because only 80% of our nation’s nursing homes have reported data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as required by law.
There could be more bad news. The CMS’s administrator told reporters that many nursing facilities with the lowest ratings on the government website Nursing Home Compare are also those suffering the worst COVID-19 outbreaks. That may not be surprising; poor infection control measures can make the disease hard to control.
In March, CMS issued an order to have states inspect their nursing homes for compliance with infection control measures, but nationwide, only just over half of those inspections have been completed. States that fail to complete these inspections by the end of July could forfeit some federal funding from the CARES Act coronavirus aid package.
On June 1, CMS announced increases to the fines nursing homes will face if they fail to control the infection sufficiently. A facility previously cited for poor infection control might, for example, be fined between $5,000 and $20,000. Fines could also be levied against nursing homes that fail to provide data on how many COVID-19 infections they have experienced.
COVID-19 has proven hard to control. Places where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, like nursing homes, have borne the brunt of the infection. But there are practices that all nursing facilities can and should undertake that can minimize the danger. The CDC has created resources to help nursing homes keep COVID-19 out of the facility, identify infections quickly and prevent the spread of the disease. It is crucial for nursing homes to follow the CDC’s guidelines.
If your loved one is in a nursing home it can be a terrifying feeling. You can’t visit and, practically, you may have only a limited ability to remove your loved one from the facility. If you suspect your loved one’s nursing home is not doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19, discuss your concerns with a lawyer experienced with nursing home abuse and neglect cases.