WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., has assailed the Trump administration’s failure to publicly release data about COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes.
The administration announced last month that it would begin tracking outbreaks and deaths at long-term care facilities around the country, NBC News reported. But it hasn’t been released, even as a third of U.S. coronavirus deaths have been linked to long-term care facilities.
“To this day, we’re trying to help those residents and workers in nursing homes with one hand tied behind our backs, because the administration is not releasing data on outbreaks in these facilities,” Casey, the top Democrat on a U.S. Senate committee focused on aging, said during a hearing Thursday. He participated remotely.
“This is unconscionable, and the administration needs to act. We’ve heard promises that by the end of May they will. We need specific evidence that they are changing policy to give families, residents and workers in nursing homes and other long-term care centers more information,” he said.
Pennsylvania officials this week released a list of long-term care facilities where the novel coronavirus has infected or killed residents, the investigative news site Spotlight PA reported, although state officials acknowledged to the Philadelphia Inquirer that those data contained errors.
Nursing homes have become “ground zero” in the pandemic, Casey said, “and yet there’s still no national strategy.” He called for Congress and the Trump administration to provide more in terms of direct support to long-term care facilities.
“For the generation that fought our wars and worked in our factories and taught our children and built the middle class, built the nation that we have and gave each of us life and love, we have to do more for our seniors,” Casey said. “There’s no such thing here as doing too much for our seniors in the grip of this pandemic.”
Earlier this month, Casey introduced legislation along with U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., that would provide $20 billion to help states, nursing homes and intermediate care facilities contain the spread of COVID-19. It would fund the purchase of personal protective equipment and testing supplies and would provide nursing home workers with premium pay, overtime and other benefits.
The legislation would also require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to collect and publish data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, has introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House along with several of her colleagues.
“Our nursing homes, their residents, and staffs have been rocked by this pandemic accounting for a high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, including my own mother-in-law — Joan Cunnane,” Dean said in a statement. “This legislation will provide more funding, and develop a system of rapid response for our nursing homes — because the only way to repay these heroes is with legislation that will keep them safe and healthy.”