President Trump announced the formation of a nursing home task force Thursday afternoon. The development comes on the heels of several weeks of lobbying pressure by industry leaders and public attention to a rising COVID-19 death toll among nursing home residents.

The panel will be officially known as the Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes. It will be composed of leading industry experts, doctors and scientists, resident and patient advocates, family members, infection and prevention control specialists, and state and local authorities.

American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson and LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan were among the leaders invited to the East Room of the White House today for the announcement. The commission will first meet in May.

“The commission will comprehensively assess the response,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said during an afternoon press conference. “It will identify best practices, and also provide recommendations for how we go forward to protect our nursing home residents and make sure we are providing the best quality of life.”

“Your pain is our pain, and we are doing everything we can to support you,” Verma said in reference to nursing home residents and their families.

Trump acknowledged that the federal response to nursing home needs has been inadequate, but officials said that should be bolstered soon by two weeks’ worth of personal protective equipment being shipped to each of the nation’s 15,400 nursing homes. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will ship a week’s worth of eye protection, masks, gowns and gloves twice to each facility “no later than July 4,” according to agency Administrator Peter Gaynor (second from right above). Quantities shipped will be based on staffing and PPE usage rates.

Nursing facilities in some of the country’s most densely populated areas — including New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. — will receive the first shipments, starting next week.

“It’s a spot that we have to take care of,” Trump said. “I guess you could call it a little bit of a weak spot, because things are happening at the nursing homes that we’re not happy about that. We don’t want that to happen.”

Also Thursday afternoon, the administration released an interim final regulation outlining long-awaited details of a plan to have nursing homes report COVID-19-related infections directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Enforcement details were not announced, but providers are required to report about infections and deaths at least weekly to federal authorities, and by 5 p.m. the next day to residents and family members.

It was all part of a slew of new coronavirus-related developments. These include CMS providing states with $81 million from the CARES Act to increase their inspections of nursing homes.