Rep. Susie Lee to Administration: Help Long-Term Care Facilities Hurt by COVID-19

April 16, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Susie Lee (Nev.-03) joined her colleagues, led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.-09), in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, requesting that the agencies immediately collect and publicly report facility-level data on the number of long-term care residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes after clear concerns that the federal government is not sufficiently collecting data on the effects of the coronavirus on long-term care facilities and nursing homes, making it more difficult to contain, prevent, and mitigate the further spread of the virus.

The full text of the letter to Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma can be found below and here:

Dear Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma: 

We write to you to ask you to immediately collect and publicly report facility-level data on the number of long-term care residents affected by the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including cases and fatalities. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is statutorily obligated to ensure that agency standards and enforcement are adequate to protect the health, welfare, safety, and rights of nursing home residents. However, CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are failing to collect and publicly report current data on the number of residents and long-term care facilities that have been affected by COVID-19. Without understanding the scope and impact of the pandemic within long-term care facilities, the Administration and the Congress lack essential information to adequately respond and protect older Americans and individuals with disabilities who rely on these facilities to survive and are particularly at risk for COVID-19.  

The COVID-19 global health crisis has already taken a severe toll on long-term care settings. Media reports over the past week suggest that over 3,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 and that at least 2,300 long-term care facilities across 37 states have COVID-19 cases. 

Before COVID-19, infections already caused as many as 3 million illnesses and almost 400,000 deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities each year, making them a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among the 2.3 million long-term care facility residents in the United States.  

Last week, Administrator Verma promised to publish the racial and demographic information of coronavirus cases. That publication is of critical importance and long overdue—we urge CMS to include facility-level data on long-term care settings upon doing so. HHS, CMS, CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, and all other relevant agencies must work together to closely monitor and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in our nation’s nursing homes and other congregate living facilities. Protecting the most vulnerable among us must be an essential priority. If HHS fails to collect these data, we fear that the fatalities of congregate living facilities will linger in hindsight as a national and avoidable tragedy. 

We urge HHS and CMS to immediately work with states, localities, and private labs to mandate collection of vital information on the number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in nursing homes and other congregate living facilities across the United States. Our national attempts to slow, contain, and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus must not ignore older Americans, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and all those living in nursing homes and congregate living settings. We must not leave any person behind.  

We look forward to receiving your response to this urgent request. If you have any questions, please contact Osaremen Okolo of Congresswoman Schakowsky’s staff at (202) 225-2111.