An early outbreak of Covid-19 was reported at the Life Care Center of Kirkland. The nursing home has been fined more than $600,000 for its Covid-19 response. Photo credit: David Ryder, Getty Images

After more than 100 residents and workers tested positive for Covid-19 at the Life Care Center of Kirkland, public health officials raised concerns about the urgent need for better infection control. Nearly 26,000 Covid-19 deaths have taken place in nursing homes, according to data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday.

CMS began requiring nursing homes to directly report Covid-19 cases and deaths to directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention starting on May 1. Based on this data, nursing homes have seen more than 60,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and nearly 26,000 deaths. As of Monday, the U.S. had more than 104,000 total deaths attributed to Covid-19, according to the CDC.

So far, a total of 12,500 nursing homes had reported to the CDC, roughly 80 percent of the 15,400 Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes. These numbers do not include assisted living facilities, which are not regulated at the federal level.

Nursing homes with a one-star quality rating were more likely to have large numbers of Covid-19 cases than facilities with a five-star rating, CMS stated. The agency plans to release a dataset this week with a breakdown of cases by individual nursing homes.

At the state level, inspections of nursing homes for infection control have been patchy, at best. Some states have merely surveyed 11.4% of facilities, while other states have surveyed all of their nursing homes. The national average is just over half, at 54.1%.

With this information in hand, CMS said it plans to crack down on enforcement of infection control. The agency plans to increase monetary penalties for facilities with repeated infection control violations and impose enforcement actions to quickly correct less severe infection control problems.

“While many nursing homes have performed well and demonstrated that it’s entirely possible to keep nursing homes patients safe, we are outlining new instructions for state survey agencies and enforcement actions for nursing homes that are not following federal safety requirements,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a news release.

At the state level, CMS said it would distribute $80 million in CARES Act funding using performance-based metrics. States that have not surveyed all of their nursing homes by the end of July must submit a corrective action plan to the agency. If a month later, they still haven’t, completed this task, they might see 10% less funding in their CARES Act allocation.



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