Shomporko Desk: A grim blame game with partisan hints is breaking out over COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents, a tiny slice of the population that speaks to an incredibly high extent of Americans who have died in the pandemic.
The Donald Trump administration has been highlighting a fragment of the industry — facilities with low federal ratings for infection control — and to some Democratic governors who required nursing homes to take recuperating coronavirus patients.
Homes that followed federal infection control guidelines were largely able to contain the virus, said Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, which sets standards and pays the bills. “Trying to finger-point and blame the federal government is absolutely ridiculous,” she said.
Verma said data collected by her agency suggest a connection between low ratings on safety inspections and COVID-19 outbreaks. But several academic researchers said their own work has found no such link.
Advocates for the elderly say the federal government hasn’t provided needed virus testing and sufficient protective gear to allow nursing homes to operate safely. A White House directive to test all residents and staff has been met with an uneven response.
About 40% of all COVID-19 deaths
Nationwide, more than 45,500 residents and staff have died from coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to a running count by The Associated Press. That’s about 40 per cent of more than 115,000 total deaths. Nursing home residents are less than one per cent of the U.S. population.
It’s a sensitive election-year issue for President Donald Trump, who’s trying to hang on to support from older voters.
Government not taking responsibility: researcher
Instead, Grabowski says it’s simpler: Because the virus can be spread by people who show no symptoms, that means if it’s already in a community, the staff can unwittingly bring it into the nursing home. Once inside, it easily spreads among frail residents living in close quarters.
“The secret weapon behind COVID is that it spreads in the absence of any symptoms,” Grabowski told lawmakers at a recent briefing. “If COVID is in a community where staff lives, it is soon to be in the facility where they work.”
Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat and chairman of a special panel on the pandemic, says the crisis in nursing homes should not be a partisan issue.
“Nursing home residents have died from the coronavirus in states governed by Republicans and Democrats, in big cities and in small towns, in rural and urban communities,” Clyburn said.
Appearing before Clyburn’s committee last week, Alison Lolley of Monroe, La., told of losing her 81-year-old mother, Cheryl, to COVID-19 in a nursing home outbreak this spring. The family was not allowed to be with her.
“My family was robbed,” Lolley said. “Mama was trapped in a petri dish, and we were shut out. Mama died alone and our family will forever be scarred by this tragedy.”
Photo credit: John Minchillo/The Associated Press
News source: CBC News