According to data collected by the United States government, an estimated one of every four nursing homes in America has had residents infected by the coronavirus. That statistic has motivated federal officials to seek data from over 15,000 nursing home facilities across the country. Operators will be required to post weekly data online, documenting the number of confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses, as well as COVID-19-related deaths.
Many predict the data will show widespread infection, as well as a pattern of nursing homes unequipped to respond to the crisis. The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit entity focused on major healthcare issues, estimates that nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Under existing laws, nursing homes already are required to report infectious disease outbreaks to state and local health officials. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities also are subject to routine inspections by state and federal agencies. Advocates for families with loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living facilities say that many states have underreported rates of infection, and at least two states—Texas and Virginia—have refused to identify nursing homes that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks. Nursing homes face significant fines for failure to report.
Federal government officials have been slow to take action to determine the impact of the coronavirus in nursing homes, even though one of the first major outbreaks of the virus in the United States involved a Seattle nursing home where more than 40 people died of the virus over three months ago.
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