More than 140 nursing homes in the United States have at least one resident who tested positive for the coronavirus, according to federal government figures released earlier this week, but exactly which homes are affected and where they are, federal officials won't say.
Their refusal to release the information has angered families, industry watchdogs and emergency personnel who say it deprives them of critical information as they try to ensure the safety of nursing-home residents, who are among the most vulnerable to the disease.
"That's just not right. It's not ethical. It's not humane," said John BaRoss, who pulled his mother out of a long-term-care facility in West Orange, N.J., on Friday because he believed she was safer at his home. "Families deserve to have the information. Let us have the information, and let us decide."
He started a Facebook group for families weighing similar decisions.
Likewise, emergency responders say the locations of nursing-home outbreaks could be essential to their decision-making, leading them to wear appropriate protective gear to prevent them from becoming sick or spreading it elsewhere. A nursing home near Newark, N.J., had to move about 90 residents Wednesday after coronavirus swept through the facility.
"Getting the information is super important," said Doug Stern, spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters, the labor union representing 320,000 firefighters in the United States and Canada. "Once we get the information, we can make sure we take the proper precautions."
While media and public health officials have reported outbreaks of the coronavirus at dozens of nursing homes, many others have not been widely reported.
On Saturday, The Washington Post reported "at least 73" outbreaks at nursing homes and other elder care facilities around the nation. That figure was based largely on information from media reports and state officials.
The actual number may have been much higher. On Monday, a news release from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that regulates nursing homes, said 147 nursing homes had a resident with coronavirus, and that figure was for only nursing homes, not elder care facilities.
Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the news release tucked the new figure in the seventh paragraph. The release said that although "147 is a small fraction of the over 15,000 nursing homes across the country, given the disproportionate effect on our nation's older population, this is a cause for concern."
The Post on Monday requested a list of nursing homes with outbreaks from both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the CDC.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman Nicole Black referred the question Tuesday to CDC officials.
A CDC spokesman, Scott Pauley, told The Post he was "not sure [the list] will be released at this time."
With the onset of coronavirus, many nursing homes and similar facilities have prohibited visitors. They're also checking temperatures of residents more frequently and using more masks.
Since nursing homes often house vulnerable people living in close quarters with staff members who come and go, it can be a challenge to keep them safe from the virus, experts said. This vulnerability makes it particularly important for nursing homes to disclose publicly when they have an outbreak, they said.
A Section on 03/26/2020
Print Headline: Federal agencies mum on virus-affected nursing homes