Liza Berger

I just returned from a road trip to Williamsburg, VA. A pretty standard summer vacation under normal circumstances.

But this year, of course, in addition to the suitcases, recreational equipment and diversions for baby, we also loaded the car with bottles of hand sanitizer, facemasks for every occasion (paper ones for easy application; cloth ones for more stylish forays) and our trusty container of disinfectant wipes.

And we loved it. As a side note, I was pleasantly surprised with how the states we passed through — Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia — were diligent about requiring face masks and social distancing at restaurants and other establishments. It made me think we may beat this pandemic yet.

Knowledge of these states’ response offers a little bit of context to a recent study that reported on which nursing homes were more likely to report COVID-19-related cases and deaths to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 12% of facilities did not make the May 31, 2020, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reporting deadline, according to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Those with low participation rates (below 85%) included those in some Western states such as California and Nevada, and those in some Southern states such as Oklahoma and Texas. (The states I previously mentioned on my road trip had strong participation rates.)  

Those other facilities less likely to report COVID-19 cases and deaths included smaller nursing homes, nonchain nursing homes, facilities with three-star ratings, newer nursing homes and facilities with a higher percentage of minority populations.

Such findings are not unexpected, given research that has found that smaller facilities and nonchain facilities have fewer resources than their bigger and chain-affiliated counterparts, and that the virus has had a disproportionate impact on minority residents in facilities.  

The study notes that “CMS may need to focus on nursing homes with more minority residents and explore the underlying reasons for the disparity in COVID‐19 reporting and residentsʼ cases and deaths.”

It also points out small and nonchain nursing homes may need additional support to ensure they have sufficient resources to comply.

What can we take from this research? Facilities still have a way to go before they get a handle on this virus. Figuring it out will make it that much easier for the rest of us to hit the road.

Liza Berger is Senior Editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Follow her @LizaBerger19.