American nursing homes will now be required to report coronavirus cases directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as to patients and their families, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said Sunday.
The directive from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mark a significant change in practice. The CDC has not formally tracked the number of Covid-19 cases that spread inside homes for vulnerable elderly patients. Thousands have died.
“It's important that patients and their families have the information that they need, and they need to understand what's going on in the nursing home,” Verma said at the evening White House briefing.
“As we reopen the United States, our surveillance effort around the Covid virus will also begin in nursing homes," Verma said. "This will support CDC's efforts to have surveillance around the country and to support efforts around contact tracing" in communities where the virus spread began in long -term care facilities, she added.
A combined lack of preparedness, inadequate testing capacity over the past few months and early misunderstanding of how the virus could spread has seeded death in scores of nursing homes across the country, where patients are not only dying quickly, but often without family and loved ones at their side.
In New York, for example, more than 1,100 state nursing home and adult care facility residents have died from Covid-19 since the outbreak began more than a month ago. New data released by the Department of Health found that at least 1,135 people died at nursing home and adult care facilities as of Wednesday, mostly in New York City. That's about 9 percent of the state's death toll so far.