Tags: Coronavirus | nursinghomes | inspectors | coronavirus

WSJ: Nursing Home Inspectors Aren't COVID-19 Tested in Most States

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By    |   Friday, 14 August 2020 06:23 PM

A majority of states — including Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio — don’t require state inspectors to be tested for COVID-19 before entering nursing homes, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The leeway comes despite concerns over asymptomatic visitors posing a risk of spreading the extremely contagious virus.

The Journal’s alarming finding comes in the wake of a June federal mandate for a complete special infection control-focused examination of 15,000 federally-certified nursing homes by late August. If non-compliant, states face the risk of losing some federal funding, the Journal reported.

Yet, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that oversees nursing-home inspections, doesn’t require states to test workers who perform site visits.

The Journal analysis found at least 26 states don’t require regular testing, though some, including New Hampshire and New Jersey, said they offer it on a voluntary basis.  Others, such as South Carolina, Washington and Idaho, are developing new testing programs for inspectors, the Journal reported.

Since the end of May, nursing homes have reported an additional 82,209 COVID-19 cases, according to a Journal analysis. The data also shows nearly 10,000 nursing-home residents died of the virus from June 1-Aug. 2, the Journal reported.

More states, including California, Tennessee and Colorado, are adding testing mandates for staff who perform nursing home survey.

California, which began a testing requirement July 31, knows of seven inspectors who had previously tested positive for the virus, according to the state’s public-health department.

Some of the states that aren’t regularly testing inspectors, including Texas and Georgia, have seen significant spread of the coronavirus among their populations, and recent cases in nursing homes, according to federal data, the Journal reported.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Georgia Department of Community Health both said they were adhering to federal guidance.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health said the state is working to ensure that inspectors who need testing, or have coronavirus symptoms, have access to it.

Louisiana, which doesn’t require nursing-home inspectors to be tested, said  months ago, seven inspectors tested positive. A spokesman for the state’s  Department of Health said inspectors provide no direct patient care, wear protective equipment and spend limited time inside facilities.

Seema Verma, the CMS administrator, said inspectors wear full personal protective equipment, following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and go through nursing homes’ screening protocols. “They’re protected, and the people that they’re around are protected,” she said.

But some researchers were appalled.

“Of course they should be tested,” said Tamara Konetzka, a professor of health-services research at the University of Chicago. “Surveyors by definition need to be in the facility and observing things…PPE is not foolproof.”

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A majority of states - including Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio - don't require state inspectors to be tested for COVID-19 before entering nursing homes...
nursinghomes, inspectors, coronavirus
Friday, 14 August 2020 06:23 PM
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