Trump admin is not requiring nursing homes to share how many people died from COVID-19 before May 8

Matthew Wright

The Trump administration will not require nursing homes to provide data on coronavirus cases and deaths that occurred prior to May 8, according to the government agency that oversees the facilities.

The government has asked nursing homes to send the data from before the date but the only required information has to go back to a week leading up to their first filings with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which was by May 17. 

Older dates are optional but nursing homes are to report their data at least weekly, the Wall Street Journal reports.  

Long-term-care facilities across the country have been slammed by the virus, with more than 28,000 deaths in the U.S., according to a recent Journal tally. 

Nursing homes are compelled by the government to send the data from before May 6 but it is optional. The Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, pictured in March when it was the epicenter of the virus in the state

Earlier forms from the CDC required nursing homes to provide date going back to January 1. 

The rule was issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who encouraged nursing homes to still release earlier data.

In a May 6 memo from the CMS, the agency stated that facilities are not required to report the date that predates ‘the effective date of the interim final rule.’ The final rule was published on May 8, according to the agency.

‘The NHSN system has capability for retrospective reporting from January 2020 onward, consistent with CDC’s mission-critical work, but CMS will not take enforcement action if a nursing home is unable to accurately report information from that time,’ the CMS added.

‘However, we encourage facilities to report older data as it will help with CDC’s ongoing surveillance and response efforts to assess burden of COVID-19 in nursing homes, and support a comprehensive national surveillance of the pandemic.’ 

The American Health Care Association, among other groups, asked the CDC to ‘clarify if reporting was mandatory or voluntary prior to May.’ The CDC reportedly said that ‘reporting prior to May 8 would be voluntary per regulation.’ 

‘As guidance and surveillance systems are put in place, clarifying revisions are made to meet the needs [of] our partners, health organizations, and other federal agencies,’ the CDC added. 

Some states do have data providing insight as to the pandemic’s impact on nursing home, the data from the CDC was to provide a full national overview of its impact. 

The rule was issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who encouraged nursing homes to still release earlier data. View of refrigerated trucks at Isabella Geriatric Center on Saturday, May 2. The nursing home lost 46 residents confirmed to have COVID-19

According to the state data, the virus did cause a crisis in many long-term-care facilities across the country.  

‘We’re going to get a very incomplete picture,’ said David Grabowski, a professor at Harvard Medical School.

 ‘How do we understand what’s happening if we only have data back to’ early May? 

Grabowski said that 36 states were offering some tallies from long-term-care facilities, while 17 are listing individual locations. 

Senator Bob Casey of (D-Penn) has been pressing for more nursing-home data to be made public. He said data prior to May should be made public because ‘families deserve this information. Public-health officials need this information.’ 

Senator Bob Casey of (D-Penn) has been pressing for more nursing-home data to be made public. He said data prior to May should be made public because ‘families deserve this information. Public-health officials need this information’

Without the older data, researches will struggled to find answers about what led to the boom of cases in nursing homes, along with what strategies worked in curbing the virus. 

‘You’re basically throwing away the experience of March and April,’ said Vincent Mor, a professor at Brown University. 

According to Lori Smetanka, executive director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, consumers also wanted to know the data as it could help them understand how they handled the virus.  

‘Having the information will tell the story of what’s been happening in the facility during the pandemic,’ she added.

CMS hopes to make the findings public by the end of May through their consumer-focused Nursing Home Compare site. The agency has also instructed nursing facilities to notify families directly of individual coronavirus cases. 

Assisted-living facilities are not included, as they are not overseen by CMS. 

‘The data that we’re going to be getting from the nursing homes will give us a better picture, a national picture of the extent of coronavirus in nursing homes as well as the deaths that have occurred,’ CMS Administrator Seema Verma said Monday. 

Matthew Wright


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