Coverage about COVID-19 in Facilities

May 17, 2020

Federal Government To Gather, Publish Data On Coronavirus Deaths, Infections In Nursing Homes.

The Washington Post (5/17, Sacchetti) reports, “Nursing homes have been directed to report the number of coronavirus infections and deaths to the federal government by midnight Sunday so that health officials can assess the damage the pandemic has inflicted on sick and elderly residents and their caregivers in more than 15,000 homes nationwide.” The CMS “said in an alert Friday that the agency ‘will be taking swift action and publicly posting this information so all Americans have access to accurate and timely information on COVID-19 in nursing homes.’” Under the new guidance, “nursing homes must notify residents and their designated family members about infections, and report key indicators to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every week.” The Post adds, “CMS Administrator Seema Verma initially faced criticism for declining to release the names of nursing homes with infections, but she later declared nursing homes the pandemic’s ‘ground zero’ and unveiled a new ‘transparency effort’ to mandate more information for families, residents and the public.”


California Nursing Home And Assisted Living Residents Reportedly Remain Isolated And Alone.

The Santa Cruz (CA) Sentinel (5/17, Sciacca, Peele) reports, “Even as California begins to loosen some restrictions on its shelter-in-place orders, there’s one group of people whose lives won’t be returning to normal in the months ahead or perhaps ever: those who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.” Locked “in their care homes with no visitors allowed, they are alone,” and “doctors aren’t even able to see them in person, in many cases.” Meanwhile, “California’s Health and Human Services secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said Tuesday that the state is still a couple of weeks away from announcing any plans for statewide, mandatory testing of patients and staff, noting that the barriers include availability of the tests as well as people to administer them.”


Some Long-Term Care Centers In New Hampshire On The “Brink Of Collapse” Amid Pandemic, Administrators Say.

The New Hampshire Union Leader (5/17, Landrigan) reports that some of New Hampshire’s “74 long-term care centers are on the brink of collapse, administrators told key state policy makers last week.” Meanwhile, the piece says, “loved ones anxiously read the headlines about COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes.” Residents on Medicare “typically are referrals from hospitals, and their stays can last up to 100 days after that hospitalization.” However, “those referrals all but went away when acute care hospitals ended non-emergency surgeries to make room for a surge of COVID-19 patients that have never materialized in much of the state.”


Life Care Nursing Homes Reportedly Defied Federal Standards Intended To Halt Spread Of Disease Even After Pandemic Began.

The Washington Post (5/17, Cenziper, King, Mulcahy, Jacobs) says, “Nursing homes operated by Life Care Centers of America, one of the largest chains in the industry, violated federal standards meant to stop the spread of infections and communicable diseases even after outbreaks and deaths from covid-19 began to sweep its facilities from the Pacific Northwest to New England, inspection reports show.” During the past six weeks, government inspectors found “breakdowns in infection control and prevention at nine Life Care nursing homes that underwent covid-19 inspections overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.” That does not take into account shortcomings discovered “at the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., which suffered the country’s first reported outbreak of the novel coronavirus in February.”


Michigan Has Not Tallied Number Of Nursing Home Residents Who Have Tested Positive For COVID-19.

The Detroit Free Press (5/17, Tanner, Kaufman, Anderson) reports “thousands of nursing home residents across Michigan have fallen ill from the novel coronavirus and hundreds have died, but the true toll remains unknown because of the lack of available statewide data.” Although it is “clear the virus has greatly impacted facilities throughout Michigan – with some in metro Detroit hit especially hard – the state has yet to tally how many total nursing home residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since the crisis began.” What Michigan “has provided are one-day snapshots showing the current number of COVID-19 cases among residents at nursing facilities, including hubs accepting COVID-19-positive patients from local hospitals and other nursing facilities.”


Columnist: Arizona Not Releasing Names Of Nursing Homes With COVID-19 Deaths Because It Could Hurt Business.

In an opinion piece for the Arizona Republic (5/17), columnist Laurie Roberts writes, “Sorry, Arizona. The state won’t tell us the names of the nursing homes where seniors are dying after contracting [COVID-19]. That, we are told, could hurt business.” Specifically, it is about protecting “the increasingly big business that is America’s long-term care industry.” Roberts writes that “the state says we aren’t entitled to know where this disease is hitting hard or whether it is in places with longstanding issues when it comes to patient care and oversight.” That is “why The Arizona Republic and four Valley television stations have sued the state for that information. We believe the public is entitled to know which facilities are being hit hard.”


FEMA Blamed For Colorado Senior Care Center Not Receiving COVID-19 PPE, But Agency Denies The Allegations.

The Denver Post (5/16, Tabachnik) reported that Shelly Griffith, “CEO of the Eben Ezer Lutheran Care Center outside Fort Morgan desperately needed more personal protection equipment, including gowns, masks and sanitizing wipes, which she expected to arrive that week in a nearly $15,000 order being shipped from China.” The facility in Brush, Colorado “is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in” the state. To date, “as many as 20 residents have died, while another 34 residents and 37 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.” However, Griffith was notified that her shipment would not arrive “because it had been scooped up by the Federal Emergency Management Administration.” This “incident turned into a national story – with the head of FEMA on Friday denouncing the accusations in a conference call with reporters. Griffith says Project Graphics deceived her. The company says its Chinese manufacturer told them FEMA was to blame. And FEMA says overseas companies are using the federal agency as a scapegoat when they can’t fill their orders for needy consumers around the world.”


Roanoke Times (May 16)

60% of Virginia’s COVID-19 deaths came from long-term care, but state code bars knowing which homes

On April 10, Gov. Ralph Northam announced he had assembled a task force to protect frail, elderly Virginians after 32 of them had died while in long-term care and a Richmond-area home was in the grips of one of the nation’s deadliest outbreaks. The virus has since swept through 170 nursing homes and assisted living centers, killing 589 Virginians — at least 13 of whom lived in the Roanoke Valley — and infecting nearly 4,000 workers and residents. As of Saturday, their deaths accounted for nearly 60% of the 1,002 Virginians claimed by the virus.


Washington Post (May 15)

One-third of DC COVID-19 fatalities linked to nursing facilities

Nearly a third of the District’s covid-19 fatalities have been residents of skilled nursing facilities, the city announced Friday, further illustrating the devastating toll of the pandemic on the elderly, injured and sick.


Survivors Of COVID-19 Pandemic In Nursing Homes Remain In Isolation.

ABC News (5/15, Mosk, Freger, Romero, Pecorin) reports on “one of the unexpected consequences of COVID-19 in nursing homes: the extended isolation of those who have survived.” The majority, “if not all of the 15,000 nursing facilities around the country have prohibited outside visitors since early March – federal regulators announced measures directing nursing homes to ‘significantly restrict visitors and nonessential personnel’ on March 13.” Still, “even with nursing home residents largely cordoned off, the virus has moved effortlessly through many facilities, most likely carried by staff members who were infected but asymptomatic.” On Thursday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in an interview, “We want to make sure that whatever we do, that we are putting the health and safety of the nursing home residents at the top. ... That’s the most important priority. So we’re starting to have those discussions about how we can make sure that nursing homes are safe and that visitors can come back in a safe way.”


New York Will No Longer Force Nursing Homes To Accept Recovering COVID-19 Patients.

The Wall Street Journal (5/14, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports New York changed its policy of forcing nursing homes to accept patients recovering from COVID-19 so that now patients must test negative for the virus first.


New York Nursing Home Administrators Reportedly Worried About The State’s COVID-19 Testing Goal.

The AP (5/14, Peltz, Mustian) reports, “As calls grow nationwide for mandatory coronavirus testing in nursing homes, New York facilities are sounding alarms about the state’s ambitious new demand to test roughly 185,000 workers twice a week.” Some “administrators worry there won’t be enough kits for an estimated 370,000 tests a week on workers at nursing homes and other adult care facilities, nearly double the total of tests done statewide now on people in all walks of life.” Homes have also “questioned who will cover an expense estimated around $100 to $150 per test, though the state suggested Thursday the homes could send workers to free state testing sites.”


New York Governor Adds Provision To State’s Budget To Prevent Some Residents From Suing Nursing Homes Amid Pandemic.

The Hill (5/14, Bowden) reports, “Aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) added a provision to the state’s newly approved budget that prevents residents from suing nursing homes over some allegations of negligence related to the coronavirus outbreak.” The “provision, which some lawmakers contended they did not know was in the final bill until after it passed, prevents basic legal action against long-term care homes over issues such as staffing shortages or insufficient equipment,” the New York Times reported.


Department Of Labor Issues Coronavirus Guidance To Nursing Homes.

Reuters (5/14, Hals) reports “the U.S. Department of Labor issued its first workplace guidance to nursing homes on Thursday since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country and ravaged care facilities, saying residents, staff and visitors should keep 6 feet (1.83 meters) apart.” The guidance “from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also said nursing homes should screen residents and staff for symptoms and should find alternatives to group activities.” OSHA “did not recommend testing of residents or workers by nursing homes, which have been hit by the coronavirus since February.”


Nursing Home Industry, Residents Clash Over Industry’s Handling Of Pandemic.

TIME (5/14) reports nursing home residents and staff in the US “have borne a heavy load of the pandemic’s burden,” with deaths in long-term care facilities now making up “at least one third of coronavirus fatalities in most states.” Some residents “are already starting to take legal action, suing nursing homes for neglect, abuse and wrongful death.” In response, the nursing home industry “has launched a broad and successful lobbying effort to secure immunity from potential lawsuits over the way facilities are treating patients during the pandemic, a move consumer advocates say raises long-term questions about the oversight of an industry that has racked up standards violations for years.”


WPost: COVID-19 Testing In Nursing Homes And Long-Term Care Facilities Is Essential.

The Washington Post (5/14) editorializes, “Residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities account for roughly half of 1 percent of the U.S. population, and more than a third” of COVID-19 deaths. The Post says that “justifies extreme measures by federal officials and states, but so far both have balked. On a call Monday with governors, Vice President Pence strongly recommended testing at nursing homes nationwide...yet federal officials and most governors have stopped short of mandating such tests.” The Post says such testing is essential, and “in states where tests are in short supply, they should be prioritized for nursing homes and other elderly care facilities.”


Attorneys “Threaten Coronavirus Lawsuits” Against Florida Nursing Homes.

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel (5/14, Santich) reports law firm “behemoth” Morgan & Morgan plans to sue “two Florida nursing homes over their alleged mishandling of COVID-19 outbreaks, attorneys for the firm said Thursday.” The firm has been retained “by families whose loved ones died after coronavirus infections at the facilities where they had been patients, including three families at Opis Coquina Center in Ormond Beach and an undisclosed number at Suwannee Health and Rehabilitation Center in Live Oak, near the Georgia border, the attorneys said.” According to attorney Alexander Clem, “These family members are just in the last seven to 10 days learning about what happened to mom and dad... that [their death] was due to COVID-19. The folks that allowed this to happen knowingly – they deserve to be held accountable.” However, Kristen Knapp, communications director for the Florida Health Care Association, representing the nursing home industry, said the attorneys were “positioning themselves to profit from this tragic situation.”


South Dakota Announces Plan To Test “All Long-term Care Facility And Assisted Living Residents” Over Next Month.

The Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader (5/14, Ferguson) reports South Dakota public health leaders “on Thursday announced a plan to test all of the state’s long-term care facility residents and staff and other vulnerable populations for the new coronavirus.” The four-week plan, a “collaboration between the state department of health, local healthcare providers and commercial testing labs, will attempt to test all residents and staff across the state’s nursing homes and assisted living centers.” The “mass-testing” event will begin with “testing residents in about 46 nursing homes in areas of substantial COVID-19 spread,” moving next to the “more than 100 other nursing homes across the state.” The remaining two weeks “will focus on assisted living centers.” South Dakota Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon “estimated that more than 7,400 residents and staff in nursing homes would be tested in the first week and more than 10,000 in the second week. In the third and fourth weeks, she expected about 4,300 staff and residents in assisted living centers would be tested each week.”

        The AP (5/14, Groves) reports the state has “acquired more supplies needed for tests, allowing them to hold mass testing events.” Health officials also plan to “conduct random testing among vulnerable people to try to catch infections before they spread.” Malsam-Rysdon “said the state is also planning to hold mass testing events in Native American tribal communities, starting with a mass testing event with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate next week.”


Inspection Reports For Several Connecticut Nursing Homes Found Lapses In Infection Control, Prevention Around Coronavirus.

The Connecticut Mirror (5/14, Thomas, Carlesso) reports inspections at several Connecticut nursing homes “found lapses in infection control and prevention and poor practices for the prolonged use of protective gear necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a half-dozen reports released Wednesday.” The reports, provided by Connecticut’s Department of Public health, “are the first detailed accounts of targeted inspections ordered by the federal government on March 20 and later expanded by Gov. Ned Lamont (D) to cover all 213 skilled nursing homes, where the novel coronavirus has infected 6,000 and is attributed to more than 1,600 deaths.” Additionally, none of the reports “detailed inspections at homes with some of the highest numbers of people dying from COVID-19.” Department spokesman Av Harris “said there is a delay in releasing some reports.”


Connecticut Nursing Home Owner Purchases 400K Masks From Makeshift Supplier.

The Wall Street Journal (5/14, Wirz, Hufford, Subscription Publication) reports that nursing homes are struggling to find masks and other important medical supplies. In one instance, a Connecticut nursing home owner purchased 400,000 masks from a Chinese makeshift suppler, without a prior relationship with the supplier.


Woman Sues Portland Nursing Home After Her Mother Died Of Coronavirus At The Facility.

The AP (5/14) reports “the daughter of a woman who died after contracting the coronavirus at a Portland long-term care facility filed a $1.8 million lawsuit Thursday claiming elder abuse.” The plaintiff, Angela Brown, “says her 75-year-old mother, Judith Jones, contracted coronavirus and died because of Healthcare at Foster Creek’s negligence, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.” In her “complaint, Brown listed problems state investigators found at the nursing home, now connected to 29 deaths and 119 cases of COVID-19.”



ProPublica (May 14)

A Quarter of the Residents at this Nursing Home Died from COVID-19. Families Want Answers.

Standing outside a window at the Bria of Geneva nursing home one morning last week, 2-year-old Rosa Morrow tried to get her grandmother’s attention. She held her palm to the screen. She blew kisses. She counted slowly, “1 … 2 … 3 …”On the other side, 71-year-old Claudette Stasik, who has tested positive for COVID-19, sat in her reclining wheelchair, her eyes closed and her arms crossed against her chest, her gray hair braided to one side. A nurse, wearing gloves, gently rubbed her hand.



Forbes (May 11)

The Trump Administration May Reopen Nursing Homes to Visitors. But It Must Be Very Careful.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) appears to be preparing to allow nursing homes to open their doors to families and other visitors, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. If not done carefully, this would be folly, and could put residents, staff, and families at risk.


Due To COVID-19 Concerns, Some Nursing Homes Are Avoiding Patients From Hospitals.

U.S. News & World Report (5/13, Pulkkinen) says, “In Washington state, which was once America’s [COVID-19] epicenter, familiar complaints about the scarcity of equipment and tests are prompting a new concern: hospitals can’t discharge patients to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.” The “facilities in Washington – and much of the country – have been unable to secure the masks, gloves and gowns necessary to prevent the virus’s spread inside their walls.” Based on them “lacking the equipment needed to keep staff and residents safe, the centers have been slow to take hospitalized patients ready to be discharged.”


Nursing Homes Request Legal Protections Amid Pandemic.

The New York Post (5/13, Feuerherd) reports, “Nursing homes in the US are seeking legal protections amid the coronavirus outbreak as deaths in the facilities skyrocket, a report said Wednesday.” Some “healthcare organizations are pleading for liability protections for the homes, which may shield them from costly civil suits, the Guardian reported Wednesday.” In addition, about “21 states have already granted legal protections for healthcare providers through laws and executive orders, but it’s unclear if those extend to the homes, according to the report.”


People In New Jersey With Developmental Disabilities Residing In State-Licensed Group Homes, Apartments To Be Tested For Coronavirus.

NJ News (5/13, Livio) reports “all 8,000 people with developmental disabilities who live in state-licensed group homes and apartments in New Jersey and the employees who take care of them will all be tested for the coronavirus, a spokesman for Gov. Phil Murphy (D) told NJ Advance Media on Wednesday night.” Mahen Gunaratna, communications director for the governor’s office, said, “The Governor’s testing plan announced yesterday included a commitment to test vulnerable populations, including residents and staff at group homes, within the next few weeks.”


New Jersey Aims To Increase Nursing Home COVID-19 Testing, But 8,000 Residents With Disabilities Are Still Waiting.

NJ News (5/13, Livio) reports, “People who live in group settings, such as nursing home residents, are at the front of the line as” New Jersey “expands the availability of coronavirus testing, Murphy Administration officials say.” However, “so far, the 8,000 people with developmental disabilities living in group homes are not on the list.” With that said, the Governor and the Health Commissioner, Phil Murphy and Judy Persichilli, “announced Tuesday the state will require the testing of every nursing home resident and employee by the end of May, and double the number of coronavirus tests by the end of June to 25,000.”


New Jersey Lawmaker Announces Hearings To Investigate Oversight, Resource Constraints In Long-Term Care Facilities Amid Pandemic.

Politico (5/13, Sutton) reports “New Jersey lawmakers are ramping up efforts to investigate the state’s oversight of the long-term care industry.” On Wednesday, “Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Chairman Joe Vitale said he would hold hearings to investigate ‘the breakdowns in oversight’ and resource constraints that allowed coronavirus to tear through the state’s nursing homes, post-acute care centers and other LTCs.” His “committee is expected to invite testimony from state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson, representatives from long-term care facilities, retired Army Brig. Gen. Mark Piterski, the former deputy commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, as well as his acting replacement, retired Army Col. Walter Nall.”

        The Hill (5/13, Budryk) reports Vitale said, “There is no question that this disease inherently poses a greater threat to the elderly and the sick. ... But the devastating reports coming out of these communities begs a number of questions that the families with members in these facilities deserve to have addressed in public.” He “said later Wednesday that he would delay the senate’s probe until consultants hired by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) complete their own recommendations for addressing the spread of the virus in such facilities.”


Measure In New York’s Budget Shields Nursing Homes From Many Lawsuits Over Failure To Protect Residents Amid Pandemic.

The New York Times (5/13, Harris, Barker, McKinley) reports that “in the chaotic days of late March, as it became clear that New York was facing a catastrophic outbreak of the coronavirus, aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) quietly inserted a provision on Page 347 of New York’s final, voluminous budget bill.” Many legislators “were unaware of the language when they approved the budget a few days later.” However, “it provided unusual legal protections for an influential industry that has been devastated by the crisis: nursing home operators.” The measure “shielded nursing homes from many lawsuits over their failure to protect residents from death or sickness caused by the coronavirus.”


Texas National Guard Launches “Facilities Disinfection Teams” For Nursing Homes.

The Austin (TX) American Statesman (5/13, Cobler, Subscription Publication) reports that “seeking to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the Texas National Guard will disinfect nursing homes across the state.” Abbott “announced the ‘Facilities Disinfection Teams,’ which will be formed in coordination with Texas Health and Human Services Commission.” There will be “six disinfection teams...deployed, according to a Wednesday news release from the governor’s office.”


Michigan GOP Lawmakers Voice Concern About Nursing Home Order.

The AP (5/13) reports Republican lawmakers in Michigan “on Wednesday voiced concern about the safety of nursing home residents in facilities that also have people recovering from the coronavirus, questioning policies adopted by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.” The issue “is a month-old executive order that lays out rules for the admission or readmission of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.” According to the AP, “the priority is placing COVID-19 residents in special regional ‘hub’ nursing homes that can provide higher levels of care and contain exposure,” said Robert Gordon, director of the Department of Health and Human Services.


Long-Term Care Facilities In Maricopa County, Arizona Saw Over 50 COVID-19 Deaths Over Past Week.

The Arizona Republic (5/13) reports “long-term care facilities in Maricopa County reported more than 50 deaths from COVID-19 over the past week, just as” Arizona “gets ready to lift a stay-at-home order that was intended to slow the spread of the disease.” Arizona’s “largest county reported 56 known deaths over the last seven days among residents at long-term care facilities.” That marks the most deaths “since the county began releasing detailed information in early April.”


Twenty-Five Girls At Michigan Residential Treatment Center Test Positive For Novel Coronavirus.

The Detroit Free Press (5/13, Kovanis) reports “the novel coronavirus has made its way to a mid-Michigan residential treatment center for teens; 25 girls there have tested positive.” Just “three of the girls at the Wolverine Human Services’ site in Vassar had symptoms of COVID-19 – one had a slight headache, one had a slight sore throat, one lost her sense of taste and smell, according to Paul Whitney, vice president of residential programs for Wolverine.” At this point, “the girls are the only residents who have tested positive. The Vassar compound is home to 148 male and female teens in treatment programs for mental health issues, behavioral problems and substance abuse.”

Last modified on 05/18/2020

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