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Nursing homes must report COVID-19 cases to residents and families, federal government says

RICHMOND — Nursing homes will be required to tell residents and their families about COVID-19 cases in their facilities under federal requirements released Monday.

The guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services comes as the federal government, along with officials in Virginia, continue to try and mitigate outbreaks in long-term care facilities, which are more susceptible to the virus’ spread. In Virginia, the majority of COVID-19 outbreaks are in long-term care facilities.

The state health department reported Monday that 77 of the state’s 139 outbreaks are in long-term care facilities, with 915 cases and 77 deaths. Last week, 58% of the 36 new outbreaks in the state, which is defined as two laboratory-confirmed cases connected by people, place and time, were in long-term care facilities.

“Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19. Today’s action supports CMS’ longstanding commitment to providing transparent and timely information to residents and their families,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

The guidance also requires that nursing homes report coronavirus cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Scientific data derived from solid surveillance is a key element of recommendations to protect Americans, particularly our most vulnerable, from the devastating impact of COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “This coordinated effort with CMS will allow CDC to provide even more detailed information to state and local health departments about how COVID-19 is affecting nursing home residents in order to develop additional recommendations to keep them safe.”

The federal government plans on making the data publicly available, according to a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services news release.

Laurie Forlano, the deputy commissioner of population health at the Virginia Department of Health, said Monday that the state would work with nursing homes to report the information to families and residents.

“We’re working together with facilities to help them figure out how to best communicate that information,” said Forlano, who is leading a statewide task force dedicated to COVID-19 and nursing homes.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that data on hospitalizations and deaths would be released daily by locality, something state officials had previously refused to do.

While more data will be publicly reported, the Virginia Department of Health still does not list the facilities where there is an outbreak, including the 14 in the Richmond region. The agency has referred COVID-19 questions to the joint information center, which is run by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and includes spokespeople from different state agencies.

The center could not immediately say Monday if the state plans on releasing the list of nursing home outbreaks.


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