Federal health agencies are being pressured again to retroactively collect data on COVID-19 deaths and cases from nursing homes to improve the government’s response to the pandemic.

The Government Accountability Office re-emphasized the need in a report released Thursday reviewing the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic — its fifth analysis on the matter.

“Specifically, we maintain that collecting data on COVID-19 cases and deaths from nursing homes retroactively would better inform the government’s continued response and recovery, and we maintain that HHS could ease the burden by incorporating data previously reported to CDC or to state or local public health offices,” the GAO wrote. 

It first issued the recommendation in September urging the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a strategy to capture more complete data on confirmed COVID-19 deaths and cases in nursing homes back to Jan. 1, 2020. It had also suggested the agencies clarify the extent to which nursing homes had reported data before May 8, 2020.

The GAO maintained the importance of the recommendation in its latest report. 

The agency also reported Thursday that CMS has yet to develop a course of action on how it plans to respond and implement recommendations made by the Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes — a suggestion it first made in a late November report.

The GAO stated that by doing so CMS “would improve the agency’s ability to systematically consider the commission’s recommendations going forward.” 

The watchdog added that it will continue to monitor provider challenges related to visitation, personal protective equipment, staffing and testing. 

“We also will continue to monitor the management and distribution of vaccinations to nursing home residents. In addition, we have ongoing work on the oversight of infection prevention and control and emergency preparedness in nursing homes,” the GAO concluded.