Friday, September 30, 2022

Feds to track, share information on nursing home outbreaks

Local senior care facilities are taking precautions to protect against the coronavirus. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)

Calling nursing homes ground zero of the coronavirus crisis, federal officials said Monday they plan to start tracking and publicly sharing information on infections and deaths in such facilities to help spot trends and early signs the virus is spreading in communities.

The move comes as critics, industry officials and local leaders have called for more aggressive actions by the federal government to track infections in homes and contain outbreaks by helping them get greater access to testing and masks, especially given the vulnerability of elderly residents.

Locally, officials at the Virginia Department of Health told WYDaily last week they not releasing which long-term care/senior care facilities on the Peninsula have positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and they are not those facilities know about other nursing homes with coronavirus cases.

RELATED STORY: How many senior care facilities on the Peninsula have cases of the coronavirus? It’s hard to say

Because the federal government has not been releasing a count of its own, The Associated Press has been keeping its own tally from media reports and state health departments, finding at least 8,426 deaths linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide.

The agency that oversees nursing homes says homes could start reporting information by the end of this week but didn’t say when or how that data will be distributed.

For the federal tracking of infections, Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said homes could start reporting by the end of this week and that questionnaires from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will collect information on deaths as well as confirmed and suspected cases, including among workers. She also said nursing homes will also be required to tell patients and family members within 12 hours of a confirmed infection.

Federal officials have come under increased pressure to start publicly tracking coronavirus infections and deaths in nursing homes and assisted/senior living facilities amid criticism they have not been transparent about the scope of outbreaks that have already claimed thousands of lives.

Experts say that lack of transparency has been a major blindspot, and that publicizing outbreaks as they happen could not only alert nearby communities but also help officials see where to focus testing and other safety measures.

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John Mangalonzohttp://wydaily.com
John Mangalonzo (john@localdailymedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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