Public health experts are pressuring federal officials to have nursing homes publicly track COVID-19 infections and deaths. Facilities are being criticized for the lack of transparency with what is happening inside with residents, especially when quarantines across the country have most nursing homes on lockdown.
According to KY3 News [link removed], those who specialize in healthcare policy and the medical experts spearheading the pandemic response believe publishing information about outbreaks in nursing homes as they happen could alert nearby communities and help officials see where to focus safety measures and testing.
While the federal government has been releasing information on the country’s total infection and death rates, they have not been releasing official nursing home statistics. Because of that, The Associated Press (AP) has been keeping a running tally based on media reports and state health departments. As of April 15, 4,412 COVID-19 patients have died in nursing homes across the country.
An AP report from earlier in April found that infections are making their way into locked-down nursing homes because current screenings are not catching infected employees who are asymptomatic. To combat this issue, it’s believed that nursing homes should be given top priority when COVID-19 tests become available.
Health experts believe federal action is long overdue in nursing homes—especially when considering how nursing homes around the country have become hotspots for the virus. For example, Kirkland Life Care Center was faulted by the CDC for their response to the outbreak. As a result of their inaction, dozens of residents have died.
Another hotspot popped up in Willowbrook Nursing Home in Illinois. With proper data from facilities who have experienced outbreaks, doctors could have a better idea of how the pandemic needs to be handled within vulnerable populations.
New York, which has seen more than 2,200 nursing home deaths, has refused to detail specific outbreak information. According to New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, releasing total numbers by nursing home could violate the privacy of residents, which is protected under federal health privacy laws.
However, the head of the American Health Care Association, Mark Parkinson, believes a national reporting system for nursing homes could protect privacy, help prioritize potential hot spots, and determine where there is a need for testing and personal protective equipment—the lack of which has likely resulted in deaths that could have been prevented.
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