DOJ Under Fire For What Some Say Is Politically-Motivated Investigation Into Coronavirus Deaths At State-Run Nursing Homes.
The Hill (9/3, Weixel) reports, “The Justice Department is coming under fire for what critics see as a politically-motivated probe into coronavirus deaths in state-run nursing homes.” The DOJ is deciding “whether to investigate if four Democratic-led states violated the civil rights of nursing home residents by requiring that homes not turn away other residents for readmission who had the COVID-19 disease.” Former DOJ officials and nursing home advocates “have slammed the investigation as a nakedly partisan attack on Democratic governors.”
New Hampshire Legislative Committee Investigating COVID-19 Long-Term Care Death Rate.
InDepthNH (9/3) reports a New Hampshire legislative committee is seeking “to determine why patients in long-term care facilities and nursing homes comprise 81 percent of the 432 deaths from COVID-19 in the state, but only 30 percent of the infections.” It will also look at “the risk of suicide in the facilities as well as the availability of personal protective equipment and testing, infection control, staffing and human resource adequacy, and support and communication with federal and state agencies.” Committee Chairman state Sen. Jon Morgan “said he expects to invite stakeholders from public and private facilities, state health and human services officials, AARP, and the Alzheimer’s Association to testify and provide information.”
Pennsylvania Health Department Recommends Certain Nursing Home Staff Without COVID-19 Symptoms Be Tested Every Four Weeks In Low-Risk Counties.
Pittsburgh Business Times (9/3) reports “the Pennsylvania Department of Health is recommending that nursing home staff members who don’t show symptoms be tested for Covid-19 every four weeks in counties that have low levels of the disease and expanding it to once or twice a week where the levels are stronger.”
Texas Nursing Homes Must Conduct Twice-Weekly COVID-19 Testing Of Staff Or Face Potential Fines.
The Dallas Morning News (9/3, Marfin) reports, “Nursing homes in almost half of all Texas counties, including Dallas and Tarrant, must start testing their staff twice a week for COVID-19 or face potential fines.” These broad “new rules from the federal government are aimed at reducing spread in nursing homes, where the virus has cut a deadly path.” Although “families and advocates hope the rules will open the door to more visitation, which has been restricted for months,” some “nursing homes leaders warn a lack of testing supplies right now could undermine the government’s efforts and strain resources over the long-term.” According to a statement last week by CMS administrator Seema Verma, “These new rules represent a dramatic acceleration of our efforts to track and control the spread of COVID-19.” HHS “is sending COVID-19 rapid test equipment – that produces results in minutes and at a cheaper cost than sending samples to a lab – to nursing homes nationwide.”
Number Of COVID-19 Deaths Among Long-Term Care Facility Residents In Maricopa County, Arizona Now Exceeds 1,000.
The Arizona Republic (9/3, Ryman) reports Maricopa County, Arizona “marked another grim milestone on Thursday, reporting more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths among residents of long-term care facilities since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.” Maricopa County “reports that 1,004 long-term care residents and eight staffers have died.” The increasing “death toll comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the decline in the state and as nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have been given the green light to reopen to visitors after being [closed] to outsiders for more than five months.”
Number Of COVID-19 Deaths Tied To Missouri Nursing Homes Now Exceeds 660, CMS Data Show.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (9/3, Benchaabane) reports “COVID-19 has killed 650 residents and 13 employees of federally licensed nursing homes in Missouri, according to the latest available federal data.” No less than “3,561 other residents and 2,285 employees have been infected as of Aug. 16, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported Sunday.” Those figures are “up from 502 deaths and 2,163 other infections among residents in Missouri nursing homes as of July 19, according to the agency.” The new infections “are part of a rise in COVID-19 caseloads in the general population of Missouri over the summer.”
CMS Fines New Jersey Veterans’ Memorial Home $21,393.
The Bergen (NJ) Record (9/3, Washburn) reports the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has fined the New Jersey Veterans’ Memorial Home in Paramus, $21,393 “for mixing up the identity of a veteran who died from COVID-19 during the chaos of the pandemic in April and for shortcomings in infection control” at the home where 81 residents “and a nurses’ aide have died from complications of coronavirus, and four residents are currently hospitalized.” The home is operated by the state Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs, and a spokesman for the department said the state is appealing the fine. CMS “found that lax efforts at preventing infection had placed all the residents and staff at risk of a life-threatening illness.”
Rise In COVID-19 Cases In Minnesota Dashing Hopes Of Visiting Loved Ones In Nursing Homes.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (9/2, Serres) reports that “across Minnesota, a spike in coronavirus cases has dashed hopes among many families that they would be able to see and hug their loved ones after months of separation.” A number “of the state’s largest nursing homes and assisted-living communities have yet to open their doors to visits by family members and outside caregivers, despite new state guidelines allowing such visits.” Meanwhile, “other facilities have moved to curb outdoor visits, which began in June, because of a recent surge of coronavirus cases.”
Some Maryland Nursing Homes Lack Sufficient Infection Control Measures.
The AP (9/2) reports, “Sixty four Maryland nursing homes have failed to take sufficient infection control measures to protect their residents from the coronavirus.” According to a Wednesday report by the Baltimore Sun, “the number is based on state inspection records that the newspaper obtained.” Ten of the facilities have “faced significant fines” and 45 “got smaller fines for failing to complete mandatory testing and for not reporting records to the state.”
New Orleans Hospitals Reportedly Sent Patients With COVID-19 Into Hospice Facilities, Back To Families.
ProPublica (9/2, Waldman, Kaplan) reports that “in New Orleans, hospitals sent patients infected with the coronavirus into hospice facilities or back to their families to die at home, in some cases discontinuing treatment even as relatives begged them to keep trying.” For example, “at a time when relatives were being kept away from their sick loved ones to prevent the spread of” coronavirus, Ochsner West Bank, a hospital in the suburbs of New Orleans, “sent infected patients back into communities to die at home, and be cared for by untrained family members without the proper protective equipment.” New Orleans’ “death statistics reveal an aberration, ProPublica found. Nationally, coronavirus patients aged 85 and older died at home only 4% of the time, according to data from the” CDC. But, “local coroner records show that in New Orleans, it was 17%.”
The New Orleans Times-Picayune (9/2, Gallo) reports “ProPublica analyzed coroner records of all 460 New Orleans deaths through early May, and found that 55 of them happened outside of a hospital setting.” That finding “was unusual: in other cities that were hot spots for coronavirus outbreaks in the spring, patients most often died in hospital-like settings, because health care providers worried that sending them home to die would result in the virus spreading, ProPublica reported.”
Tampa Bay Times (September 2)
Tuesday’s decision allows visits in long-term care facilities if they haven’t had a new COVID-19 case in the previous 14 days.
Assisted Living Facilities Now Able To Apply For COVID-19 Relief Under Provider Relief Fund.
Bloomberg Law (9/1, Pugh, Subscription Publication) reports that “assisted living facilities that may have been previously ineligible to apply for pandemic relief under the federal Provider Relief Fund Phase 2 General Distribution allocation will now be able to do so, the Trump administration announced Tuesday.” The pandemic relief, “which will help minimize hardships associated with the Covid-19 outbreak, was made possible through the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, “By expanding the Provider Relief Fund to assisted living facilities, we are supporting more frontline providers and helping to protect the nearly 1 million vulnerable older Americans in their care.
Michigan Nursing Home Task Force Releases New Recommendations To Reduce Impact Of Isolation On Residents Amid Pandemic.
The Detroit Free Press (9/1, Anderson) reports a Michigan “nursing homes task force proposed new ways to help reduce the effects of isolation on residents in its report released Tuesday, recommending outdoor visits, small group activities with no contact, limited communal dining and increased virtual visitation.” Those “are some of the 28 recommendations sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), including others focused on resources, staffing and placement of some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.” The suggestions “targeted several aspects of life inside nursing homes during the” COVID-19 pandemic.
The AP (9/1, Eggert) reports, “Michigan should modify a system in which nursing home residents infected with the coronavirus can be treated and isolated in those facilities and take steps to improve life for all long-term care residents amid the pandemic, [the] task force urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in a report released Tuesday.” Out “of the 28 recommendations, nearly half involve ways to better the quality of life inside 442 homes that have had to stop communal dining and restrict visits and other activities during the outbreak.”
Florida Governor Announces He Will Lift Ban On Nursing Home Visitation.
The AP (9/1, Kennedy, Calvan) reports, “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Tuesday that he will lift the state’s ban on visiting nursing homes that has cut off vulnerable seniors from family since mid-March over fears of spreading the new coronavirus.” The new executive order “is expected to allow family members to visit their loved ones no more than two at a time, wearing protective gear including masks.” Facilities will “need to go 14 days without any new cases of COVID-19 among staff or residents to allow the visits.” In addition, children under age 18 “are not yet allowed.”
The Hill (9/1, Klar) reports DeSantis “said he will be lifting the ban in an executive order later Tuesday, adding that he is following recommendations from a nursing home task force that met in recent weeks, according to The Associated Press.”
Forbes (9/1, McEvoy) provides additional coverage.
South Carolina Nursing Homes May Reopen Soon For Limited Visits Under New Rules.
The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier (9/1, Cranney) reports, “South Carolina nursing homes can soon reopen for limited family visits under strict rules released by state health officials Tuesday that may not totally satisfy advocates who have pushed for in-person visitation for months.” For instance, “there’s no requirement that every nursing home allow the visits – it’s up to the individual homes to decide for themselves.” Moreover, the visits will be “highly limited,” in that “they must take place outdoors,” and “unless visitors produce a recent negative COVID-19 test result, visitors may only be with their loved ones for 15 minutes under supervision from staff.”
Kaiser Health News (September 1)
Long-term care (LTC) facilities have experienced a disproportionate share of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recently available data show long-term care facilities making up 8% of all coronavirus cases, but more than 40% of all COVID-19 deaths. This analysis evaluates trends of long-term care cases and deaths between April and August 2020 to evaluate where and when the pandemic has hit long-term care facilities the hardest, how the share of cases and deaths attributed to long-term care facilities has changed over time, and whether states continue to report new cases and deaths in these facilities at the same rate now as they did back in April.
Smaller Elder-Care Facilities, Aging In Place May Be Better Alternatives To Nursing Homes.
The Christian Science Monitor (8/31, Montlake) reports that the COVID-19 pandemic put “a spotlight on the often-obscured lives of Americans in nursing homes, and the industry that runs them.” Yet, “even before COVID-19, alternatives to institutional care were expanding in many states – and now, advocates see a chance to help more Americans age the way they want to.” The article says, “Smaller-scale, better-staffed elder care appears to have done better during the pandemic.” However, an even better alternative is allowing seniors to “age in their homes and communities, providing a sense of belonging. Models vary, from publicly-funded day centers to small modular houses that can be added to existing properties or built in clusters.” At present, “more than half of Medicaid dollars are spent on home- and community-based services.”
Task Force Recommends Changes To Michigan’s Nursing Home Policies During Pandemic.
The Detroit News (8/31, Mauger) reports “a task force appointed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is recommending significant changes to the state’s policies for nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a draft document obtained by The Detroit News.” The task force “wants to identify excess hospital capacity and use a new program creating ‘Care and Recovery Centers’ across the state to help serve elderly individuals with the virus if there’s a second wave, according to the draft copy.” The group’s “recommendations seek to limit the sending of COVID-19 positive individuals to nursing homes that don’t have a history of caring for residents with the virus.”
Connecticut Nursing Home Facing Federal Infractions Over Issues That Put Residents At Risk Of COVID-19, Regulators Say.
The Connecticut Post (8/31, Yankowski) reports a nursing home in Norwich, Connecticut “where 21 residents and five staff members have contracted COVID-19 is facing...federal infractions after an inspection found numerous issues that put residents at risk, health regulators announced Monday.” Workers “at Three Rivers Nursing Home failed to separate residents to prevent the transmission of the disease, did not use proper protective equipment, and failed to quarantine a resident exposed to the virus for 14 days – among other violations, the state Department of Public health said in a prepared statement.” DPH Acting Commissioner Deidre Gifford “said the agency will continue to monitor homes with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.”
The Connecticut Mirror (8/31, Carlesso) reports the nursing home “did not maintain an ‘updated, accurate or accessible outbreak listing’ for the status of residents, the health department concluded.” Furthermore, the facility “failed to screen a visitor for travel history, did not ensure appropriate storage of reusable gowns (to maintain infection control), and failed to make sure an aerosolized medication was properly administered, putting the resident and staff at risk of COVID-19 exposure.”
WLRN (August 31)
Florida Has a New Advocate for Nursing Home Residents, as They’re Set to Soon Receive Visitors Again
Many people in Florida who live in nursing homes have gone more than five months without visitors. Now, as residents are about to receive visitors again, they also have a new advocate looking out for them.
Feds, States, Nursing Homes Seek To Tackle Isolation Caused By COVID-19.
The South Bend (IN) Tribune (8/30, Dits) reported, “The first months of COVID-19 isolation were hard on people with dementia, with many stories of decline.” For people suffering from “dementia – and for others who are medically fragile – human contact and touch are critical forms of therapy, stimulating parts of the brain that otherwise would wither.” The Trump Administration, “states, and nursing and assisted living communities are now expanding virtual ways to stimulate residents and help family members to connect.” This is effective for some people, however, certain “people with dementia are confused by the face speaking on the laptop or cellphone, even when it’s family.”