Some legal aspects about publicly reporting nursing homes’ COVID-19 infection rates and deaths were being ironed out as of press time. But federal authorities made it clear in late April that facilities would be required to inform residents, families and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about outbreaks.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said the new, “unprecedented” reporting requirement — which is in addition to the traditionally expected local health department reporting — was being implemented because providers weren’t doing enough on their own.

“The nursing home association even a week ago put out recommendations that nursing homes inform patients and their families, but we understood that that wasn’t happening so we went a step further to make that a requirement,” she said at a press briefing held on April 20. 

Both the American Health Care Association and Leading-
Age on April 11 urged nursing homes to inform residents and families about cases.

“This nationwide reporting system will create a crucial element of the surveillance and monitoring system in communities so we can quickly identify outbreaks, conduct contact tracing and stem outbreaks at the community level” for numerous kinds of infections, Verma added.

“If we are very focused on nursing homes and we can see early outbreaks in nursing homes, that can be an early predictor for the entire community.”

But LeadingAge’s top lawyer warned that duplicative reporting (to different health authorities, with possibly different criteria) is “a recipe for unfortunate disaster.”