The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is calling for more nursing home staff members to complete its new training program designed to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

The free training program was originally announced in late July and opened to providers in late August. It includes five training modules for staff members and 10 modules for management. The course covers topics such as infection control, screening and surveillance, personal protective equipment usage, and cohorting and caring for individuals with dementia during a pandemic.

So far, more than 125,500 workers from about 7,300 nursing homes have completed the training, CMS announced late Tuesday. That accounts for about 12.5% of the approximately 1 million nursing home workers in the country. 

CMS also publicly recognized the 1,092 nursing homes that have had 50% or more of their staff complete the program, and thanked the facilities for “taking this critical step to equip their staff with the latest information regarding infection control, vaccine distribution, and other topics.” 

The agency is “urging” nursing homes to require all staff members to take the program. 

“We’ve provided nursing homes with $20 billion in federal funding, millions of pieces of PPE, free testing machines and supplies, and significant technical assistance and on-the-ground support,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. 

“Ultimately, the ownership and management of every nursing must take it on themselves to ensure their staff is fully equipped to keep residents safe. With coronavirus cases increasing across the country and infection control identified as a major issue, we encourage all nursing homes to take advantage of this no-cost opportunity to train their staff,” she added. 

Midwest coronavirus hotbed

In other news, an updated situation report by the American Health Care Association revealed that nursing homes in the Midwest region have seen 200% increases in weekly coronavirus cases since mid-September. Additionally, new weekly cases nationwide grew by 73% between mid-September and the first week of November.

“Our healthcare heroes are doing everything they can to prevent it from spreading further, but this level of COVID nationwide puts serious strain on our workforce, supplies, and testing capacity,” AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement. 

“If everybody would wear a mask and social distance to reduce the level of COVID in the community, we know we would dramatically reduce these rates in long term care facilities,” he added.