Ina Jaffe | KGOU
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Ina Jaffe

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulate nursing facilities, are lifting the ban on visitors, effective immediately. CMS imposed the restriction in March in an effort to control outbreaks of the coronavirus.

In some nursing homes, 100% of the residents are positive for the coronavirus. That's by design. These facilities have volunteered to devote part or all of their buildings exclusively to treating COVID-19 patients, who bring in more government money. But to make room for them, the original residents can be forced out of the places they've called home.

Almost 300,000 nursing home residents are given antipsychotic drugs each week, even though most have no psychosis to justify it. But since the beginning of the Trump administration, nursing homes have rarely paid a price for even the most serious misuse of the drugs.

Residents and staff of long-term care facilities account for at least 40% of U.S. deaths from the coronavirus. In reaction, nursing homes have banned family visitors, scrambled for scarce personal safety equipment, and attracted scrutiny from state and federal lawmakers.

What's received less attention is that many nursing homes have remained virtually COVID-19-free. If researchers could figure out what made the difference, that could help protect nursing home residents now and in the future.

But so far, their studies have drawn wildly different conclusions.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Despite the huge outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes, the federal agency that regulates them has failed to distribute much of the money it received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, according to two members of Congress.

It wasn't candlelight and soft music that made the 40th anniversary of Luann and Jeff Thibodeau so memorable. It was gazing at each other through the window of Jeff's nursing home in Texas and eating carryout from the Olive Garden. Just the two of them. And a nursing assistant.

"She fed him, and I ate mine, and that was it," Luann Thibodeau says. "So that was our 40th wedding anniversary."

Newly released data from the U.S. government show that nearly 26,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 and more than 60,000 have fallen ill. These figures, however, don't account for all nursing homes across the country.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, about 80% of nursing homes nationwide reported data to the CDC as is now required. The remaining 20% could face fines if they don't comply.

Nursing homes were not on our minds much before the COVID-19 pandemic. Then their residents began dying by the thousands.

While there are no definitive figures, nursing home residents and staff appear to account for about one-third of the roughly 90,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S., according to The New York Times. Those figures may be low because some states do not report such figures and the CDC is just beginning to collect them.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

With more than 11,000 resident deaths, nursing homes have become the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis. Now, they're asking the federal government for help — $10 billion's worth of help.

President Trump Thursday announced the formation of an independent commission to look at the response of nursing homes to the coronavirus. The move comes as nursing home operators clamor for more equipment and testing.

In California, Riverside County's leading public health official, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, has filed a formal complaint with the state about a nursing home where 82 residents were evacuated earlier this month.

California's Department of Public Health has confirmed to NPR that it is addressing the complaint. It would not elaborate.

More than half of older Americans, many with chronic conditions, put off medical treatment during the first month of social distancing. That's according to a nationwide survey funded by the SCAN Foundation and the John A. Hartford Foundation, both of which focus on improving care for older adults.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The people most vulnerable to the coronavirus are older adults with underlying health conditions. And that perfectly describes the residents of nursing homes.

In some parts of the U.S., the desperate need to slow the spread of the coronavirus is coming into conflict with the scramble to find more hospital beds.

Nursing homes have been the sites of some of the earliest — and deadliest — outbreaks of COVID-19. Some people who run such facilities are understandably leery of accepting new patients who might spread the virus.

Nonetheless, some of the largest states are now ordering nursing homes to accept patients who have been discharged from the hospital but are still recovering from COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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