Nursing homes across the nation were told Sunday that they will have to report any cases of COVID-19 to families of their patients and to the federal government, which will in turn put the information online for public view.
“It’s important that patients and their families have the information that they need,” Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said at a White House COVID-19 press briefing on Sunday. “And they need to understand what’s going on in the nursing homes.”
The nursing centers will have to provide that information to the families and to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which would in turn post the information on its website.
“This will support CDC’s efforts to have surveillance around the country and to support efforts in contract tracing so that we can mitigate the spread of the virus in those communities that show spread,” Verma added.
This will support CDC’s efforts to have surveillance around the country and to support efforts in contract tracing so that we can mitigate the spread of the virus in those communities that show spread.
— Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service
Guidelines released last week by the White House for lifting state COVID-19 restrictions call for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those in nursing homes, to be isolated from the rest of the population until the final stages of the recovery, and for tight restrictions on who is allowed into those facilities.
As of Sunday afternoon, a total of 85,301 New Jerseyans had been infected with COVID-19, including 3,915 deaths and 7,495 hospitalizations.
The latest counts from the New Jersey Department of Health showed that at least 10,000 nursing home patients across the state’s 413 long-term care facilities tested positive for COVID-19, which includes more than 1,600 fatalities.
One of the most infamous cases in recent weeks involves the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Sussex County, where two staff and 38 patients died.
Public health officials made an unannounced visit to the center at 2:00 a.m. earlier in the month, acting on anonymous tips that 17 bodies were stored in a makeshift morgue, according to State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
The site is now under investigation by state and federal health and law enforcement officials, including the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
State health officials and the Murphy administration have faced inquiries and calls to make the names publicly available of any nursing home where a patient tests positive – as was done with its three veterans’ homes in North, Central and South Jersey.
Representatives for the governor’s office and state health department did not immediately return requests for comment.
Persichilli has threatened to name and shame long-term care facilities that hold back on complying with the state’s COVID-19 health guidelines.
Both she and Gov. Phil Murphy have acknowledged that the nursing homes are woefully short of the necessary amount of testing, and Murphy on Saturday had not ruled out sending in the National Guard to those facilities to bring in added resources.