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Nearly 26,000 Nursing Home Residents Have Died From COVID-19, Federal Data Show

Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma, pictured at a White House event last month, says her agency will be stepping up fines for nursing homes that fail to sufficiently control infections.
Evan Vucci
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Newly released data from the U.S. government show that nearly 26,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 and more than 60,000 have fallen ill. These figures, however, don't account for all nursing homes across the country.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, about 80% of nursing homes nationwide reported data to the CDC as is now required. The remaining 20% could face fines if they don't comply.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma told reporters on a conference call Monday that the data has limitations: Some facilities have reported cumulative figures, and some have reported weekly. She said she expects the discrepancies will even out over time. The figures will be publicly available Thursday on a government website called Nursing Home Compare.

Verma also said CMS had found that the nursing homes with the lowest ratings had some of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19. In March, CMS ordered states to inspect nursing homes for proper infection control. But figures released Monday show that nationwide, a little over half of those inspections have been done, with Nevada completing 100 percent of inspections and West Virginia completing around 11 percent.

States that do not finish all of the required infection inspections by the end of July could face having to forfeit some of their funding under the coronavirus aid package known as the CARES Act. That money could be redistributed among states that are in compliance with the requirement.

CMS also announced Monday that it will be stepping up fines for nursing homes that fail to sufficiently control infections. Nursing homes that have previously been cited for lax infection control could receive fines ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.

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Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."