Apr 19, 2020 - Health

Nursing homes must now report all coronavirus cases

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, speaks at the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on April 19

Seema Verma during the coronavirus briefing at the White House on Sunday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Nursing homes are now required to report all novel coronavirus cases directly to the CDC, and families and patients at the facilities must also be informed, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma said Sunday.

Why it matters: Except for inpatient health care settings, the largest amount of COVID-19 deaths the CDC has recorded has been in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Thousands of residents have died of the virus in long-term care facilities; however, the agency had not previously formally tracked the number of cases inside the homes.

  • A summary of the directive states that failure to report cases of residents or staff who have confirmed COVID-19 or who are under investigation for the virus "could result in an enforcement action."

Details: "As we reopen the United States, our surveillance effort around the COVID virus will also begin in nursing homes," Verma said at the daily White House coronavirus briefing.

  • She said the move would support the CDC's efforts to have "surveillance around the country and to support efforts around contact tracing" in the facilities.
"It's important that parents and their families have the information that they need, and they need to understand what’s going on in the nursing homes."

The big picture: Analysis by the New York Times shows the 10 deadliest coronavirus clusters in the U.S. have been in nursing homes, including at least 43 who died in the Life Care Center in Washington state — one of the country's earliest outbreaks.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called nursing homes on Saturday the "feeding frenzy for this virus," noting that they're "privately run facilities, for the most part."
  • More than 1,100 residents of nursing homes and adult care facilities in New York have died of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, per the state's Health Department.

Of note: New York City's health department is including in its statistics the "probable deaths" of patients with COVID-19 listed on their death certificate who did not test positive for the virus.

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