Nursing homes warn of third COVID spike due to community spread


With COVID cases increasing in 38 states, industry leaders call on public health officials to ensure nursing homes have resources needed and for Congress to pass additional funding


WASHINGTON, D.C. (MNS) — The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), representing more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year, released a report showing nursing homes in the U.S. could see a third spike of increasing new COVID cases due to the community spread among the general population.


Recent data released by John Hopkins and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) show that with the recent spike in new COVID cases in the general U.S. population, weekly nursing home cases rose in late September for the first time in seven weeks after new cases dropped significantly throughout August and early September. According to John Hopkins, COVID cases in the general US population rose by 62,139 cases per week in late September correlating with an uptick in nursing home cases during the week of Sept. 27.


As experts have repeatedly noted, COVID-19 cases in a surrounding community is a top factor in outbreaks in nursing homes. Dr. David Grabowski, professor of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School recently noted, “The strongest predictor of whether or not we’ll see cases in [a particular setting] is community spread.”


“The number one factor in keeping COVID out of our nursing homes, so we can protect our vulnerable population is reducing the level of the virus in the surrounding community,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “While the support we have received from Congress, the Administration and other public health agencies have helped our facilities fight this battle, we could still see another wave of COVID cases caused by the sheer volume of rising cases in communities across the U.S. given the asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of this virus.”


The report showed new COVID cases in nursing homes had declined significantly from 10,125 cases the week of July 26 —when the country experienced a growing number of cases in the Sun Belt states—but saw an uptick in new cases in the final week of September.


The report also showed COVID-related deaths in nursing homes had declined significantly, but industry leaders remain concerned about the recent uptick in new COVID cases in facilities.


With new COVID cases now rising in the general population of 38 states, Parkinson said now more than ever Congress needs to end the partisan logjam and prioritize frontline health care workers and residents, particularly vulnerable elderly populations.


Most of the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund provided by the CARES Act back in April has already been distributed and Parkinson said health care providers, including long term care facilities, will need additional funds to continue its response to the COVID pandemic heading into the cold and flu season, which provides new challenges.


“Without replenishing funds for federal and state agencies, health care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living communities, could find themselves less than completely prepared for the challenges of the upcoming winter season, which could inevitably result in an uptick in new COVID cases,” Parkinson said.


“Without adequate funding and resources, the US will repeat the same mistakes made during the initial outbreak last spring and the major spike over the summer.

“We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living communities, by passing another COVID funding package before they leave town for the elections,” Parkinson added.


Metropolis News Service.


Watchdog agencies release analysis of skilled nursing homes


LOS ANGELES (MNS) — The Inspector General and Auditor-Controller each released their initial report detailing their ongoing investigation into skilled nursing homes. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called it a critical first step towards improving operations at these facilities, which have accounted for about 42 percent of Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 death toll.


“We still have a lot of work to do, but the Inspector General and Auditor-Controller’s reports provide us with a starting point for tackling complex and deeply-entrenched problems that have plagued skilled nursing homes for decades,” said Ridley-Thomas.


“We are undertaking the due diligence required to develop long-term solutions for improving the quality of care at skilled nursing homes while simultaneously taking timely steps to promote the ongoing safety of both patients and staff,” he said.


Overseen by the State of California but regulated locally by the LA County Department of Public Health (DPH), skilled nursing homes have been the epicenter of the pandemic in LA County, with about 16,000 infections and 2,500 deaths among patients and staff.


In May, the Board of Supervisors approved Ridley-Thomas and Chair Kathryn Barger’s motion directing LA County’s Inspector General to investigate skilled nursing homes for the first time. They also tasked LA County’s Auditor Controller with monitoring the facilities and creating a public dashboard showing their COVID-19 case totals, testing frequency, mitigation plan status, personal protective equipment supply and other information. The dashboard went live last month.


In his first interim report back to the Board, Inspector General Max Huntsman examined skilled nursing homes’ COVID-19 mitigation efforts and provided an overview of existing regulatory and oversight structures. He said subsequent reports will analyze the long-standing, complex issues that left many skilled nursing homes ill-prepared to prevent and control the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the systemic failures that have allowed substandard conditions to persist.


“My office is conducting an exhaustive review of barriers to adequate care that have, in many instances, left nursing home residents neglected and abused,” Huntsman said. “Our County’s most vulnerable residents deserve better, and we are committed to identifying and recommending all reforms necessary to give them the care they need. The pandemic has exacerbated systemic problems, and we need immediate responses and long-term solutions.”

After posting the skilled nursing homes dashboard in September, Auditor Controller Arlene Barrera released her own first interim report, which pointed out the number of outstanding investigations into skilled nursing facilities. She noted that in addition to 5,407 open investigations, DPH’s Health Facilities Inspection Division (HFID) reported an additional 6,228 in-progress investigations related to other long-term care and short-term care health care facilities.


The Auditor Controller also confirmed that as of June 30th, HFID reported 10 percent of the 5,407 in-progress investigations had been prioritized at the level of “Immediate Jeopardy,” because the facility’s alleged non-compliance with one or more requirements has caused, or is likely to cause, serious injury, harm, impairment, or death to a resident.


Upcoming reports by the Inspector General and Auditor Controller are expected to include recommendations for addressing this backlog and for streamlining the process.


Metropolis News Service