If we don’t immediately begin universal testing of nursing home staff and residents immediately, COVID will eventually be in nearly every nursing home in the country where COVID is present in the surrounding community,” warned Harvard Health Policy Professor David Grabowski in testimony to Congress. It is too late by the time any staff member or resident develops symptoms. The Harvard researcher cautioned without universal testing nursing home workers have no idea what they are facing when they come to work each day. One of the barriers to universal nursing home testing, Grabowski said, is federal agencies are giving conflicting advice:

“The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the oversight agency, wants nursing homes to test workers weekly, but has not made it a requirement. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, has said that facilities can adjust how often they test workers based on the local prevalence of coronavirus.”

Nursing home staffers need personal protective equipment (PPE) like gowns, gloves, and masks. However, many nursing homes are reusing supplies while some do not have access to the strongly protective N95 masks and have to rely on lower-grade alternatives.

Grabowski said because of the lack of PPE and testing, most nursing homes have been closed to family members since March even though there is no reason that family cannot be tested and trained in the protective devices the same way that as staffers are.

“Nursing homes function better when family are involved in the care of their loved ones. Our research has supported the idea that care improves when a family member visits,” he noted.

In addition to universal testing and universal availability of high-quality PPE, nursing home care could be improved by a robust strategy to attack the critical shortage of workers at the facilities by quickly matching  unemployed workers to the job openings and to continue to develop a pipeline of trained staffers said Grabowski.

Gayla McDaniel was concerned when she got a call last week from the SavaSeniorCare nursing home where her uncle is recovering from a stroke.  The call from the caregivers at the SavaSeniorCare facility -Brian Center in Gastonia -was to let her know that her uncle was exposed by a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. The next day, he was tested for the virus with a positive result.

Records released by the Gaston County Health Department show Cartner is one of at least 15 residents that have tested positive for the virus, along with two staff members. The paperwork shows the nursing home first reported a case on July 3 and the latest onset of symptoms was on July 7.

However the Brian Center in Gastonia is NOT included in the list of nursing home with outbreaks released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS agreed to start publishing a list of outbreaks in April, after being threatened with a lawsuit to get access to the data. The agency publishes an “updated” list of facilities with outbreaks every Tuesday and Friday at 4:00 p.m. It has never been accurate or complete.

Gayla McDaniel, whose uncle is battling COVID-19 at a nursing home, said she wishes more would be done to alert the public.

“I think, when you’re exposed, family members should know immediately,” she said of nursing home residents exposed to COVID-19. “You know, the community should know. Everybody should know that there was an exposure.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tens of thousands of deaths and more than three million infections, with predictions of many more to come. Nursing home residents have been among the most affected by the pandemic. In some states, half or more of all COVID deaths have occurred among nursing home residents. The situation is compounded by short-staffing; a lack of preparation, including insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for caregivers and testing to identify those infected in a timely fashion; and inadequate infection control procedures like hand-washing and cleaning.

COVID-19 cases are spreading rapidly throughout Texas nursing homes, recent state figures show. Overall, more than 1,500 residents have died from coronavirus in the state, while more than 11,100 cases have been reported.  The number of nursing home residents in the state who have tested positive for the coronavirus has increased by more than 60% in the last month.

“We had an opportunity to avoid what we’re experiencing right now,” Patty Ducayet, Texas’ long-term care ombudsman, told NBC News.

“We got this chance to see what other states did, what awful things they were experiencing, so we might be ahead of the crisis. Now I’m bracing for more deaths to come and more cases,” she added.

Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) confirmed that the state would not be easing restrictions on non-essential visitors at long-term care facilities. A spokesperson added that the decision was the “most prudent” for the safety of residents.

We are getting dozens of phone calls from resident’s families asking what they should do about their loved ones in nursing homes. Several claim that their loved ones are not getting the care they need. Same thing is happenening all over the country.  I read an article from a San Antonio with similar complaints.

I think we’ve dropped the ball in all nursing homes,” said Stefanie Taylor, who made the tough decision to move her 76-year old mother, Charlotte Wood into a nursing home recently.   “I like I’ve literally thrown her to the lions’ den,” Taylor said.

Taylor says her mother tested positive for COVID-19 and was moved to a designated wing at the Guadalupe Valley Nursing Center. When she called one morning for an update, she spoke with a staff member.

There was not a nurse assigned to the COVID unit for the day shift,” the staff member told her.  A nurse wasn’t present in the COVID wing from 10 Friday night until 10 the next morning.  The center is clearly understaffed.

Her words were they were having trouble finding staff that wanted to work with a COVID positive patient,” Taylor said. “I felt like my mother and those other patients were in imminent danger at that point.”

South Carolina passed the 70,000 confirmed cases mark today with over 1200 confirmed deaths.  Total coronavirus deaths in the U.S. will surpass 150,000 by this weekend. But the Trump administration is against a proposal from Senate Republicans to spend over $50 billion on programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Pentagon and the State Department aimed at virus testing, distributing a potential vaccine and otherwise confronting the pandemic.

President Trump said that the rising number of U.S. deaths from the coronavirus “is what it is,” defended his management of the pandemic with dubious and obviously false claims. In an interview with Fox News, Trump incorrectly claimed that the United States had the lowest death rate in the world; that new cases were surging here because of the number of tests conducted; and that his virus response had saved “millions of lives.” He is delusional.

Most developed and high-income countries have a relatively small number of new cases and deaths each day, while the U.S. is climbing up the charts:

A higher percentage of tests are coming back positive than in other countries, and the death toll continues to mount, which are both signs that the main issue in the U.S. is a failure to control the virus.  Wear a mask! Stay safe.

The Emergency Support for Nursing Homes and Elder Justice Reform Act of 2020 would renew and reauthorize funding for several programs in the Elder Justice Act of 2009.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley introduced the bill that would establish regional strike teams to respond to outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities and extend reporting requirements related to COVID-19 — both for the rest of the year and retrospective to the start of 2020. Nursing homes would be required to use “a portion of any payments received or federal relief funds made available on or after July 1, 2020, for responding to the COVID-19 emergency period” to meet those rules, according to the bill summary.

“Three things: malnutrition, bed sores, and dehydration,” Grassley told Skilled Nursing News. “If you took care of those three things in nursing homes, most people in nursing homes would have a [good] quality of life.”

The bill would also require that the HHS secretary and Office of Inspector General (OIG) compile a list of diagnosis codes that could indicate physical or sexual abuse or neglect of SNF residents, a requirement stemming from a recommendation of the OIG.

Thomas E. Comer’s final hours are a mystery to his family. You see, he died and was buried before the family knew he died of COVID-19. Comer lived at the Bayshore Health Care Center until his sudden death on April 13. The nursing home never contacted the family after the Irish expatriate succumbed to the coronavirus.  His son, David Comer, first learned of his father’s death after his daughter called the nursing facility to find out how he was doing.

“We had not heard anything. We knew they were overwhelmed, but I had this false sense nothing would ever happen to him,” Brianna Comer recalled. “The woman who answered the phone said she could not find him.” Then she was told he had expired.  “I went, ‘what? When did he die?’”

“We were told by the funeral home that he was already buried, against his wishes of being cremated, and they also attempted to contact my father, but they were only given an outdated phone number by the nursing home,” Comer remarked.

“Somebody could have told me something,” said his son, David. “He was my dad.”

“I understand what’s going on,” he said of the crisis in nursing homes. “But they couldn’t spare me five minutes?”

Comer, a retired Passaic County Sheriff’s Officer, said it would not have been hard to find him.

“They could have called the Holmdel police and given my name and they would have found me in minutes,” he said.

Born on September 2, 1931 in County Mayo on Ireland’s west coast in the town of Westport, Thomas Comer was a proud Irishman who never lost his brogue, said his granddaughter. He was a veteran of the Royal Air Force. He followed his parents and siblings to the United States, arriving here in 1958. She said he loved math and loved chess and for some reason, dogs always seemed to love him.

“He never got sick. He always said he had Irish immunity,” Brianna Comer remembered. “When we got sick, he said we weren’t Irish enough.”

The family is now trying to obtain his medical records in order to find answers regarding what happened to him and locate his belongings.

“I would have just appreciated his few effects,” said David Comer. “Some pictures. The wristwatch my son gave him. It’s just a $10 watch, but it was his.”

Nursing home operators are anxiously anticipating another bailout and windfall in the fourth, and likely final, coronavirus relief package from the federal government. Observers assume Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have a proposal ready to unveil by the time he returns tomorrow. He promised lawsuit protections and further checks to long-term care operators.

Cliff Porter, senior president of governmental affairs for the American Health Care Association, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News said long-term care providers will be lobbying for delayed paybacks for a Medicare advance payment program. Operators will be pushing for more funding in any “relief” packages, Porter said.

Lawmakers will have just a few weeks before another recess kicks in and attention shifts to the fall elections. McConnell is worried about campaign contributions. Money is at the root of all his concerns.

 

Canyon Creek Memory Care assisted living facility in Billings, Montana, was offered free, voluntary surveillance coronavirus testing for residents and staff by the state of Montana on June 16 but declined, health officials say.  Now, almost all of the residents and staff at the Facility have Covid-19, and eight residents have already died of the disease, according to officials.

Koelsch Senior Communities runs the facility.  Koelsch Senior Communities runs more than 35 facilities in eight states across the country, according to its website.  The eight deaths at Canyon Creek make up almost 25% of the state’s death toll and more than 60% of the county death toll.