On April 19, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it would be requiring nursing homes to report COVID-19 information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While CMS asked nursing homes to submit their first set of data to the CDC by May 17, CMS granted a grace period that ended on May 24. On June 4, CMS released the mandated nursing home reported data, that includes the weekly reporting for weeks ending May 24 and May 31.
While there are some limitations to this data, for example, not every nursing home submitted data, and nursing homes had the option of reporting data retrospectively to January 1, 2020, it was not required, the data does provide insight as to what is happening in our nursing homes and provides residents, their families, and the public with various information including:
- Number of residents admitted (or readmitted) to the facility that week;
- Number of residents confirmed to have COVID-19 that week;
- Total number of residents confirmed to have COVID-19;
- Number of residents who died that week from both COVID and other causes;
- Total number of residents who died from COVID and other causes;
- Number of staff who tested positive for that week and total;
- Number of staff who died from COVID for that week and total staff deaths from COVID;
- Facilities that report staff shortages for that week; and
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies.
The data can be accessed https://data.cms.gov/stories/s/COVID-19-Nursing-Home-Data/bkwz-xpvg . To view the most recent information, click on “view dataset” which will take you to https://data.cms.gov/Special-Programs-Initiatives-COVID-19-Nursing-Home/COVID-19-Nursing-Home-Dataset/s2uc-8wxp . To locate your nursing home, click on “View Data” or go to https://data.cms.gov/Special-Programs-Initiatives-COVID-19-Nursing-Home/COVID-19-Nursing-Home-Dataset/s2uc-8wxp/data . From there you can search for your specific nursing home.
There is a lot of information in this dataset. For questions about what the columns mean, please see this overview: CMS Data Overview
It is likely that upon reviewing the information for your nursing home, you will have questions. If you have questions, it is important that you speak up! Examples of questions to ask the nursing home:
The number of COVID-19 admissions increased from the previous week, what precautions are you taking to ensure other residents are not exposed to the virus?
- I see that x-number of staff tested positive last week. Did any of those staff work with my loved one? If yes, is my loved one showing symptoms of COVID-19?
- There was a shortage of nursing staff last week. What are you doing to ensure there are enough staff to meet the needs of my loved one? What are the numbers of nursing staff supposed to be like on my loved one’s unit/nursing home? What was the shortage?
- Same questions for shortage of aides.
- For shortages of other staff, ask what area in the nursing home had the shortages? Ie, social work, environmental services, dietary
Residents and their representatives (i.e. family) have the right to be informed about what is happening in the nursing home, and the nursing home needs to be transparent. While transparency may not alleviate all resident and family concerns, it goes a long way in ensuring there is effective communication and ensuring resident safety.
If residents, family, or staff, have questions about the data or concerns about the quality of care, safety and COVID-19 response in a nursing home, we are here to assist and connect you with the appropriate resource. Our free legal advice helpline is open statewide to all ages and incomes, and we can also be contacted at our general office line. For assistance, call 1-844-481-0973 any time and leave a message, or between 9am-11am to reach an attorney directly. Individuals can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with their name and phone number. All messages will be returned within 1 business day. To reach our general office line, call (716) 853-3087.