Trump administration announces new nursing homes COVID-19 transparency effort

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Agencies partner with nursing homes to keep nursing home residents safe

Today, under the leadership of President Trump, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new regulatory requirements (***see excerpt below this paragraph) that will require nursing homes to inform residents, their families and representatives of COVID-19 cases in their facilities. In addition, as part of President Trump’s Opening Up America, CMS will now require nursing homes to report cases of COVID-19 directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This information must be reported in accordance with existing privacy regulations and statute. This measure augments longstanding requirements for reporting infectious disease to State and local health departments. Finally, CMS will also require nursing homes to fully cooperate with CDC surveillance efforts around COVID-19 spread.

Natchitoches Wood

***Excerpt from memorandum***

Resident and Resident Representative Reporting

In addition to requiring reporting to CDC, in rulemaking that will follow, we will also be requiring that facilities notify its residents and their representatives to keep them informed of the conditions inside the facility. This is separate from the reporting required to CDC in that this information will be shared by the nursing home directly with residents and their representatives. At a minimum, once these requirements are in place, nursing homes must inform residents and their representatives within 12 hours of the occurrence of a single confirmed infection of COVID-19, or three or more residents or staff with new-onset of respiratory symptoms that occur within 72 hours. Also, updates to residents and their representatives must be provided weekly, or each subsequent time a confirmed infection of COVID-19 is identified and/or whenever three or more residents or staff with new onset of respiratory symptoms occurs within 72 hours. Facilities will include information on mitigating actions implemented to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission, including if normal operations in the nursing home will be altered. This information must be reported in accordance with existing privacy regulations and statute.

In rulemaking that will follow this memorandum, failure to report resident or staff incidences of communicable disease or infection, including confirmed COVID-19 cases (or Persons Under Investigation for COVID-19), or provide timely notification to residents and their representatives of these incidences, as required, could result in an enforcement action against the nursing home by CMS.***end

CDC will be providing a reporting tool to nursing homes that will support Federal efforts to collect nationwide data to assist in COVID-19 surveillance and response. This joint effort is a result of the CMS-CDC Work Group on Nursing Home Safety. CMS plans to make the data publicly available.  This effort builds on recent recommendations from the American Health Care Association and Leading Age, two large nursing home industry associations, that nursing homes quickly report COVID-19 cases.

“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. “Nursing home reporting to the CDC is a critical component of the go-forward national COVID-19 surveillance system and to efforts to reopen America.”

“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.”

This data sharing project is only the most recent in the Trump Administration’s rapid and aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On February 6, CMS took action to prepare the nation’s healthcare facilities for the COVID-19 threat. On March 4, CMS issued new guidance related to the screening of entrants into nursing homes, informed by CDC recommendations. On March 10, CMS issued guidance related to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) usage and optimization. On March 13, CMS issued guidance for a nationwide restriction on nonessential medical staff and all visitors, except in compassionate care situations. Shortly after that announcement, President Trump declared a national emergency, enabling the agency to take even stronger action. CMS then announced a suspension of routine inspections, and an exclusive focus on situations in which residents are in immediate jeopardy for serious injury or death, and implemented a new inspection tool based on the latest guidance from CDC. Additionally, on April 2, CMS issued a call to action for nursing homes and state and local governments. It included guidance that reinforced infection control responsibilities and urged leaders to work closely with nursing homes in their communities to determine needs for COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment. The recommendations also urged state and local officials to work with nursing homes to designate certain sites for COVID-19-positive or COVID-19-negative patients to avoid further transmissions. On April 15, CMS announced the agency will nearly double payment for certain lab tests that use high-throughput technologies to rapidly diagnose large numbers of COVID-19 cases. This announcement built upon a March 30 announcement that hospitals, laboratories, and other entities can perform tests for COVID-19 on people at home and in other community-based settings outside of the hospital – including nursing homes.

CDC continues to work closely with CMS, state and local health departments, and nursing homes to inform national infection prevention and control policies and strategies to further support nursing homes, residents and families of residentsCDC built a long-term care toolkit to be distributed to all 50 states to help increase infection prevention and control preparedness in nursing homes and provide remote tools to further assist these important healthcare providers.  

In addition, CDC rapidly sent teams of infection control experts to support state and local health departments during the first COVID-19 outbreak in a nursing home in the U.S. Teams were on the ground within 36 hours of the notification to assist with the implementation of measures to detect and contain additional infections in the community.  CDC continues to work closely with state and local health departments to assist long-term care facilities with COVID-19, with on the ground support provided to more than 30 jurisdictions and remote technical assistance from infection control experts across the U.S. with plans to provide additional support underway.

Today’s guidance is available here: https://www.cms.gov/medicareprovider-enrollment-and-certificationsurveycertificationgeninfopolicy-and-memos-states-and/upcoming-requirements-notification-confirmed-covid-19-or-covid-19-persons-under-investigation-among

This action, and earlier CMS and CDC actions in response to the COVID-19 disease, are part of the ongoing White House Task Force efforts. To keep up with the important work the Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19, visit www.coronavirus.gov. For information specific to CMS, please visit the Current Emergencies Website.