Nursing homes now have to report coronavirus cases to families and federal government

In this Friday, April 17, 2020 photo, emergency medical workers arrive at a nursing home in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

By Tami Luhby, CNN

(CNN) -- As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps through the nation's nursing homes, the facilities will now have to report all cases to patients and families, as well as to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thousands of residents have died from coronavirus in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, with one of the earliest outbreaks in the US happening at the Life Care Center in Washington killing several dozen people.

Many families have complained that they haven't been told of what's happening inside the facilities where their loved ones reside, though nursing homes are required to inform state or local health officials.

Now, nursing homes will have to tell patients and their families within 12 hours of a coronavirus diagnosis and give weekly updates.

The facilities will also have to provide information on confirmed and suspected cases, hospital admissions and deaths of patients and staff to the CDC, said Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Her agency will also make the data available to the public but has not yet decided how.

"Nursing homes have been ground zero for Covid-19," said Verma, calling the new reporting requirement "critical" to monitoring the virus' spread and reopening the country.

The agency has already issued guidance to nursing homes, advising facilities to restrict visitors, tighten infection control measures and ensure staff are using personal protective equipment.

Older Americans have proven particularly vulnerable to coronavirus. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday said nursing homes have been a "feeding frenzy" for the outbreak. The hard-hit state said last week that there have been more than 1,100 confirmed and presumed coronavirus deaths in long-term care nursing home facilities.

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