New CMS nursing home data creates questions around death toll

As more data comes in on nursing homes across the country, the number of COVID-19 cases and suspected cases continues to climb, as the overall death toll figures somehow drop, according to the latest data shared by CMS Thursday.

The newest data, current as of June 7, shows that there are more than 107,000 confirmed cases, more than 71,000 suspected cases and just shy of 29,500 COVID-19 deaths in Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes. Two weeks ago, when the last dataset was released, there were more than 95,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, another 58,000 suspected cases and nearly 32,000 deaths—more than 2,000 fewer than before. Nationwide, there have been an estimated 118,000 COVID-19-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CMS could not immediately be reached for comment.

Since the first weekly release, there is now information for about 94% of the nation’s nursing homes. Two weeks ago, about 88% had reported data, according to CMS.

Paired with the Thursday release, CMS said, “This is preliminary data and may be subject to fluctuations as facilities are given the opportunity to submit and correct their data” in the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network system.

Mark Parkinson, CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, said that, despite some errors, the data shows that “COVID-19 disproportionately impacts seniors with chronic conditions.”

“We understand that there may be some questions about the data and adjustments made due to obvious challenges with launching a new reporting system in the midst of a pandemic. Regardless, one life is one too many to lose, and we hope this data will show public health officials the urgent need to prioritize resources to protect long-term care staff and residents,” Parkinson said in a prepared statement.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma has urged the public to “use caution when interpreting data in this early stage.” There are “honest errors in data entry” as nursing homes learn how to submit the data, and CMS is working on quality control, she said.

CMS first started requiring nursing home to submit information on COVID-19 cases and related deaths in May in order to provide standardized information on nursing homes across the country. The data, which excludes assisted-living facilities, will be released weekly.

Verma has said nursing homes, after an initial grace period, will be fined $1,000 the first week they fail to submit data, $1,500 for the following week and increasing penalties for weeks thereafter.


Tags: covid-19, pandemic

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