US health officials say 147 nursing homes have at least one case

Emergency vehicles sit in front of the Chateau Nursing and Rehab Center on March 17, 2020 in Willowbrook, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

There are 147 nursing homes across 27 states that have at least one resident with the coronavirus, exposing seniors who are “more susceptible to dangerous complications from the virus,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in releasing the new data Monday.

CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined the high rate of COVID-19 fatalities at the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, the epicenter of the outbreak in the state. At least 35 residents or staff of Life Care have died from the virus, CMS said. 

While that figure is a small fraction of the 15,000 nursing homes across the U.S., it posses a serious threat to the senior population since people over 65 years old are already at higher risk to serious illness and death from the coronavirus, according to the CDC. 

“The coronavirus outbreak at Life Care was an unprecedented situation for the state of Washington,” said Washington Department of Social & Health Services Secretary Cheryl Strange in a statement. “We have learned valuable lessons. We are applying these lessons daily in our efforts to prepare long term care facilities throughout the state for the potential of COVID-19.” 

At the Life Care Center, “inspectors found three “immediate jeopardy” situations, which are situations in which a patient’s safety is placed in imminent danger,” Medicare said. 

The center failed to rapidly identify and manage ill residents, notify the Washington Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infection among residents and lacked a sufficient backup plan following the absence of the facility’s primary clinician, who fell ill.

Given its findings, the CMS said it will enhance its inspection process for nursing homes and healthcare facilities to prevent the spread of the disease. 

To prevent further spread to the elderly, the Trump administration suspended visitations to all nursing homes across the U.S. except in certain cases, such as a resident dying, through an executive order. 

The coronavirus has infected at least 41,500 people in the U.S. and has killed 499, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

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