Record Number Of US Nursing Home Workers Test Positive For COVID-19.
Bloomberg (1/13, Tozzi) reports, “Covid-19 cases among U.S. nursing-home workers jumped almost tenfold in recent weeks as the omicron variant raced through America’s senior-care facilities.” A record number of nursing-home workers, 57,000, “tested positive for Covid during the week ending Jan. 9, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up from about 6,000 the week ending Dec. 19.”
Michigan HHS Director, Governor Dispute Report Expected To Show More Deaths In Long-Term Care Facilities Than Originally Reported.
The AP (1/13, Eggert) reports, “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration disputed the methodology and conclusions in a pending report that is expected to say there were thousands more coronavirus-related deaths tied to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Michigan than reported by the state health department.” Auditors “plan to release their review next week,” but Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel “sought to publicly preempt it by questioning how the data was compiled.” In a letter, Hertel “referenced ‘serious concerns’ to the state auditor general’s office...with its plan to combine COVID-19 deaths at facilities that are subject to state or federal reporting requirements and those that are not.”
Newsweek (1/13, Bair) reports that the death report “was requested by state Republican lawmaker Rep. Steve Johnson, who believes the increase of deaths is due to a COVID policy enacted by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.” The policy “allows hospitalized virus patients to return to nursing homes, despite being in quarantine.” Hertel “said she expects a discrepancy with the office’s report as they are counting residents discharged before death, including those who recovered from COVID-19 and returned home or to hospice, and residents who were hospitalized for a non-virus reason, but were infected while in the hospital.”
Michigan Officials Dispute Preliminary Report Expected To Allege Undercount In Long-Term Care COVID-19 Deaths.
The Detroit Free Press (1/12, Boucher, Hall) reports, “Michigan health officials are disputing a report that they say is expected to allege the state undercounted potentially hundreds or thousands of COVID-19 deaths of residents at long-term care facilities.” Michigan’s “Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel says the auditor general made a series of errors, including conflating death definitions, examining data from facilities not required to report deaths and using sources that are unreliable.”
The Detroit News (1/12, Mauger) also provides coverage.
Nebraska Governor Plans Temporary Raise In Rates Paid To Some Care Providers To Stabilize Operations.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (1/12) reports Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts “announced plans Wednesday to temporarily raise rates paid to some care providers in the hopes of stabilizing their operations in the midst of workforce shortages and increased costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Ricketts “said in a press release that the rate increases are expected to cost $61 million.” The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services “will need to get approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for increases to targeted Medicaid-funded services.” The plans “would provide a 15% increase in rates for three programs that provide home- and community-based services,” and “would boost daily payments to assisted living facilities and nursing homes by $20 per bed per day.”
Families Struggle To Meet COVID-19 Testing Rules For Nursing, Senior Home Visitors.
The Los Angeles Times (1/12, Reyes) reports, “California recently tightened the rules for visiting people in nursing homes, senior residential and other care facilities,” and “declared that nursing homes and other care facilities must require a negative test for COVID-19 for visitors.” However, with the scarcity of tests available, people struggle to meet the one-day time limit for proof of negative test. The California Department of Public Health “said that while it understood the concerns, ‘we also recognize the importance of COVID prevention.’” Critics “also argued that the rules are unfair because employees do not have to be tested as often.” In November, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “said facilities could no longer limit the length or frequency of visits or require advance scheduling,” however “residents and their advocates complain California has not followed suit.”
US Nursing Homes See Surge In COVID-19 Cases.
The Wall Street Journal (1/11, Wilde Matthews, Kamp, Subscription Publication) reports the Omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge is significantly impacting US nursing homes. Facilities have reported near-record numbers of cases in both staff and residents, according to federal data. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is mentioned.
Maine Disability Provider Seeing Two New COVID-19 Staff Absences Daily In 2022.
Disability Scoop (1/11, Andrews) reports the Maine-based “John F. Murphy Homes organization had seen an average of two new COVID-19-related staff absences a day” in the first week of 2022. The “compounding number of absences is enough to destabilize scheduling” for the provider, which “serves people with intellectual disabilities and autism.” Disability Scoop says the disruption “may just be a preview of the stress coming for Maine’s health care system,” amid “record-high rates of positive cases” and an expectation of “near-vertical case growth” in the future.
NBC15 (January 11)
More investments to support Wisconsin’s older adults were announced Tuesday by Gov. Tony Evers and the state Department of Health Services. Reimbursement rates have been raised by 5% for home and community-based services (HCBS) provided by Wisconsin Medicaid programs, the officials unveiled. HCBS providers work with older adults, as well as adults and children with disabilities, to support them in living independently. As the health care workforce undergoes challenges during COVID-19 surges, Gov. Tony Evers explained that officials wanted to ensure hospitals and long-term care facilities have the resources they need.
New Jersey Passes Tougher Penalties For Nursing Homes Violating Rules.
New Jersey Star-Ledger (1/10, Sherman) reports the New Jersey legislature on Monday passed a “bill that would mandate tougher penalties for nursing homes repeatedly in violation of state and federal codes.” It will also “require nursing homes to report additional financial information,” and now goes to the governor for signing. Andrew Aronson, CEO of the Health Care Association of New Jersey, said providers “will continue working with the legislature on ways to provide our facilities and their residents the support they deserve.”
COVID-19 Deaths In New York Nursing Homes Rising.
The New York Post (1/8, Klein) reported that COVID-19 deaths in New York nursing homes “are rising amid the Omicron surge – but the tally is a fraction of those who died in the facilities in the same period last year, state records show.” There “were 69 confirmed and presumed deaths from the virus among nursing-home residents for the week ending Jan. 4, up from 43 the week before.” In the first week of January 2021, “fatalities in nursing homes reached 341, according to state Department of Health statistics complied by the Empire Center.”
Connecticut Asks Nursing Homes To Accept Patients With COVID-19 After Hospital Discharge.
The Hill (1/8, Dress) reported, “Connecticut is asking nursing homes to accept COVID-19-positive patients discharged from hospitals as the state looks to alleviate the burden on the healthcare system during the latest wave of the pandemic.” The state Department of Public Health released a memo dated January 6 stating “post-acute care facilities, a category which includes nursing homes, should take in patients discharged from a hospital ‘regardless of COVID-19 status.’”
Nursing Home Staffs Lag Far Behind Residents In Getting COVID-19 Booster Shots.
Bloomberg Law (1/7, Pugh, Subscription Publication) reported, “While over 72 million Americans have received Covid booster shots, including 62% of nursing home residents, only 27.6% of nursing home staff nationwide have received a booster shot, said Janell Routh, co-lead of the Covid-19 Vaccine Task Force at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Infected staff “have been the main cause of virus transmission in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Nursing Homes Division Director Evan Shulman said, “We are seeing a much larger increase in staff cases than resident cases, so we are concerned that staff are leading to more of the spread.”
New Jersey Nursing Home That Stacked Up Bodies At Start Of Pandemic Now Reports State’s Worst Outbreak.
New Jersey Star-Ledger (1/7, Sherman) reported, “The nursing home where 17 stacked-up bodies were discovered in 2020, some in a makeshift morgue, has reported the state’s worst outbreak of COVID-19, according to data compiled by the Department of Health – which has been tracking a sudden spike in cases in long-term care facilities over the past week.” The Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center, “once known as Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II, has at least 182 residents and more than 100 employees who have tested positive amid the ongoing omicron wave.” It “is the most number of new COVID cases in a series of outbreaks that have hit more than 500 long-term care facilities across the state since the final days of 2021.”
New Jersey Agrees To Pay $53M To Families Of 119 Veterans Who Died From COVID-19 In Two State Facilities.
The New York Times (1/7, Tully) reported, “It was among the country’s deadliest coronavirus outbreaks: One in every three residents of a New Jersey nursing home for frail military veterans died as the virus raced unchecked through the state-run facility.” The 101 residents “who died in the first eight months of the pandemic included both of Regina Costantino Discenza’s parents, who had been living at the complex, Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home in Edison, N.J., for about two years when the virus began ravaging long-term care centers throughout the Northeast.” In addition, a “state-run veterans home in Paramus, about 40 miles north, had an equally devastating death toll: 89.” Now, in “a sober acknowledgment of failings, New Jersey has agreed to pay $53 million to families of 119 veterans who lived in the two facilities.”
MinnPost (January 7)
After years at a simmer, staffing shortages at long-term care programs in Minnesota have reached a full boil.
Wisconsin Senate Leader Says Governor Should Provide More Federal Aid To Nursing Homes Amid COVID-19 Surge.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1/6, Marley) reports Wisconsin’s Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) “is calling on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to funnel more federal aid to hospitals and nursing homes to help them during a surge in COVID-19 cases.” Nursing homes and hospitals “are facing staffing shortages and their problems are intertwined.” LeMahieu believes “Evers could alleviate the problem by boosting pay for nursing home workers using federal aid.”
New Jersey Governor Once More Deploys National Guard To Long-Term Care Facilities During Omicron Surge.
New Jersey Star-Ledger (1/6, Sherman) reports, “The New Jersey National Guard is being sent into some of the state’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to help respond to a soaring number of COVID-19 outbreaks amidst growing staffing shortages.” Gov. Phil Murphy “announced the deployment on Thursday” and “said the move will send members of the Guard to facilities experiencing staffing problems, protecting the health and safety of long-term-care residents ‘while the omicron variant surges throughout the nation.’” The move involves “approximately 150 soldiers and airmen...beginning on Monday, Jan. 10, at more than a dozen long-term care facilities around the state.”
Connecticut Governor Issues Executive Orders Requiring COVID-19 Booster Shots For Nursing Home Workers.
The AP (1/6, Haigh) reports, “Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is ordering nursing home workers and contractors who have significant contact with residents to get a vaccine booster shot by Feb. 11, noting the state’s increasing COVID-19 infection rate among staff.” He “signed two executive orders Thursday evening requiring boosters for employees at long-term care facilities, including assisted living and residential care homes, as well as the 3,600 state employees at state-run chronic care hospitals.”
The Hartford (CT) Courant (1/6, Fawcett, 438K) also covers the story.
CMS, CDC Urge Nursing Home Staff, Residents, Visitors To Vaccinate, Boost For Omicron Surge.
Skilled Nursing News (1/6, Stulick) reports, “Government agencies continue to push direct care staff, residents and visitors to get vaccinated and receive their booster shot as soon as they can, noting the latest variant surge and low booster rates among nursing homes.” The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) “discussed the latest statistics on a stakeholder call for the industry on Thursday, hosted alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and kicked off by CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.” The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) “announced the same day as the call that it sent another letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting an extension to the public health emergency declaration (PHE) in the face of the omicron surge.”
Vermont Nursing Shortage Reaches “Critical” Point.
The AP (1/5) reports, “Vermont’s nursing shortage has reached a critical point amid the pandemic, requiring new funding proposals to recruit and train additional health care workers, state and federal leaders warned.” Gov. Phil Scot (R) said, “The budget adjustment I’ve proposed includes nearly $18 million for training, recruitment and retention for home and community based human service providers.”