The Trump administration could soon require nursing homes to report all confirmed coronavirus cases to residents, their families and staff members.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could announce the move this week, the Wall Street Journal reported. It wasn’t clear if the government plans to gather and release nursing home data on the coronavirus’ impact in facilities, the report noted.
The reported recommendation comes after both major nursing home associations called for providers to report all COVID-19-positive cases to state survey agencies and local health departments — as well as residents, families and staff members.
Both the American Health Care Association and LeadingAge stressed the importance of better communication about the disease with families.
“We encourage this information be shared with CMS, CDC and FEMA. We believe this information can help identify long term care providers who are most in need of testing and PPE resources,” AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement.
“We fully expect that consistent reporting of cases will lead to adequate and timely access to PPE and testing,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan added. “Additionally, because COVID-19 impacts the people we serve, it is crucial that our members maintain transparent communication about positive cases with staff, residents, and families.”
During a Coronavirus Daily Update call Monday, Ruth Katz of LeadingAge emphasized the importance of reporting cases. “Reporting cases is the very best way to get the data we need” to rally support for more materials, funding and regulatory relief, she said.
“We’re living in a system within a system that should support us but is failing us,” Smith Sloan added during the call. “So please know what we are advocating consistently for supplies, priority status, relief and a much better understanding of all that you have done, and continue to do to create healthy environments.”
A message to stay positive
Also during the call, Smith Sloan told providers to not let negative media reports discourage them.
“As you read the paper and watch the news, you are more than aware … that nursing homes have become a punching bag,” she said. “There are subtle and not-so-subtle suggestions that we are the problem and nursing homes don’t know what we’re doing. They are untrue, unfair and dismissive of your hard work.”
In other coronavirus-related news:
• Deaths in nursing homes connected to COVID-19 have surpassed 3,600, according to an Associated Press report. That’s a sharp increase from the just 450 deaths reported less than two weeks ago.
Some believe deaths may continue to rise in nursing homes due to shortages among staff members, personal protective equipment and available testing. Testing could become more available for providers, according to Deborah Birx, M.D., who’s a part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
“We need to really ensure that nursing homes have sentinel surveillance. And what do I mean by that? That we’re actively testing in nursing homes, both the residents and the workers, at all times,” Birx said.
• And as if you didn’t need any reminders about how unique our current living conditions are: All 50 U.S. states are under disaster declaration for the first time in history.
• In brighter news, an engineering student is using 3D printing to create and distribute medical face shields and headbands to at least a dozen nursing homes and other facilities in the New York and New Jersey areas.