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CDC Must Start Tracking Number of COVID-19 Cases in Nursing Homes

As media outlets tally the daily body counts related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, one statistic remains conspicuously absent: the total number of long-term-care facilities and residents affected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been pressed for current nursing home COVID-19 data, and the organization has responded that it is not withholding that data; rather, it has never kept a formal tally at all.

Since the virus infiltrated the United States, the ability to get accurate data on the pandemic has been hampered by inadequate testing capabilities, a disjointed federal and state response, and political pressure to downplay the scale of the emergency. Still, one trend has been evident since the first outbreak, and that is the disproportionately high number of cases and fatalities in nursing homes. The CDC has shared nursing home incidence statistics on two occasions, leaving concerned parties (including Brown & Barron, LLC) to wonder where the CDC is getting its data, and why up-to-date information has not been made public.

U.S. Senate Democrats Robert P. Casey, Jr. and Ron Wyden have pressed the CDC for answers regarding the sporadic release of data. In a letter addressed to Seema Verma, the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Robert R. Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they wrote:

“At a time when this information could be vital to the health and safety of Americans, it is imperative that the list of facilities with a COVID-19 case, among residents and staff, be made public and shared with relevant health care providers, authorities and Congress on a real-time basis. Importantly, CMS and CDC must convey this information in a manner that is easily accessible to nursing home residents, families and the community, and it should be accompanied by useful resources and information for affected individuals.”

The CDC stated it had no current information on nursing home statistics and was depending on state agencies for the figures it has cited recently, according to an article by Laura Strickler of NBC. In the same article, CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund confirmed that the CDC "is not keeping a 'master list' of coronavirus cases in long term care facilities or keeping track of how many facilities have infected residents. … The number referenced in the CMS press release [of March 23] and updated a week later [on March 30] reflected a snapshot from state health departments responding to informal outreach about their sense of how many nursing homes they were aware of with at least one COVID-19 positive resident."

Our attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC focus on representing nursing home residents who have been neglected or abused. We know first-hand how these facilities function, and just how vulnerable residents are to injuries. If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options.

To learn more about how the coronavirus is affecting nursing homes and their residents, visit our coronavirus update blog. To contact our team, call (410) 698-1717 today for a consultation.

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