Press Releases

Congressman Scott Urges Federal Officials to Track Coronavirus Impacts in Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities

Congressman David Scott (GA-13) recently joined 77 of his colleagues, led by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), in sending a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma urging them to work with states, localities, and private labs to immediately collect and publicly report facility-level data on the number of long-term care residents affected by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), including cases and fatalities. As reported by NBC News, the absence of comprehensive federal data risks endangering even more lives.

“Immediate action is necessary to help keep individuals in nursing homes and long-term care facilities safe," said Congressman Scott. “These patients are at the highest risk for death if they contract COVID-19. That is why I also sent a letter to CMS Administrator Verma last month urging her to ensure that facilities like these continue caring for patients while reducing risk of exposure to patients, their caregivers, and to the public.”

Currently, the only federal data publicly available is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) March 30th estimate that at least 400 long-term care facilities have positive COVID-19 cases. All existing information has come from journalists who are reporting over 3,000 nursing home residents have died and that at least 2,300 facilities across over 37 states have positive cases. Because these numbers are only estimates, the actual figures are likely far more dire.

In the letter, Congressman Scott and his colleagues emphasized the specific vulnerability of older Americans and individuals with disabilities living in long-term care facilities: “Before COVID-19, infections already caused as many as 3 million illnesses and almost 400,000 deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities each year, making them a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among the 2.3 million long-term care facility residents in the United States. Approximately 75 percent of nursing homes have been cited for infection control deficiencies over the past three years alone. Further, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, has said that ‘people who are higher risk for severe disease and death are those who are older and with underlying health conditions.’ Publicizing this vulnerability is necessary, but not sufficient. It must be complemented by data collection around how COVID-19 is spreading in congregate communities where these individuals are heavily concentrated and where history suggests they are t particular risk.”

The letter continues: “Last week, Administrator Verma promised to publish the racial and demographic information of coronavirus cases. That publication is of critical importance and long overdue—we urge CMS to include facility-level data on long-term care settings upon doing so. HHS, CMS, CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, and all other relevant agencies must work together to closely monitor and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in our nation’s nursing homes and other congregate living facilities. Protecting the most vulnerable among us must be an essential priority. If HHS fails to collect these data, we fear that the fatalities of congregate living facilities will linger in hindsight as a national and avoidable tragedy.”

The letter closes by urging HHS and CMS not to leave older Americans, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and all those living in nursing homes and congregate living settings behind in their coronavirus response.

A signed copy of the letter is available HERE.