Accounting for Unreported Covid-19 Cases and Deaths in Nursing Homes

Accounting for Unreported Covid-19 Cases and Deaths in Nursing Homes

Residents living in nursing homes and other congregate living centers have been more at risk of Covid-19 outbreaks during the pandemic than the rest of the population. Residents have weaker immune systems and pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to catching Covid-19 and dying from the disease.

Once Covid-19 gets into a facility, it spreads to residents and staff quickly. When nursing home staff cannot care for residents or respond appropriately to Covid-19 outbreaks, they’re putting patients at risk. Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer if your loved one received inadequate care or was neglected while living in their facility during the pandemic.

Cases of elder abuse are serious, and the staff and facility responsible need to be held accountable. California residents should consider contacting Berberian Ain, LLP, to handle their case. Our nursing home lawyers are experienced in recognizing the signs and types of elder abuse.

Tracking Covid-19 Outbreaks and Deaths

The federal government did not require nursing homes to report cases of Covid-19 or deaths among their residents and staff until late May 2020. This is more than three months after the first reported Covid-19 outbreak at a nursing home in Washington state.

The National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) began reporting data on cases and deaths in nursing homes on May 24, 2020. They gave nursing homes the option to report previous cases and deaths from the start of the pandemic, but many nursing homes chose not to report older data. Researchers believe this has led to an undercount in the number of cases and deaths in nursing homes due to Covid-19.

This had led scientists and researchers to use other available data to estimate additional cases and deaths that were not reported to the federal government.

What Data Was Used?

Researchers compared cases and deaths reported by nursing homes to NHSN with those reported to state departments of health in late May 2020. They looked at over 15,000 nursing homes located throughout the US.

Along with data from the NHSN Covid-19 nursing home data and state health department data sets, the study looked at multiple other reports.

Researchers used data from:

  • Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Nursing Home Compare
  • Brown University’s Long Term Care: Facts on Care
  • NY Times Covid-19 Database

Researchers separated nursing home and non-nursing home data from state health departments using facility information from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services data set. This also allowed them to match the number of cases and deaths to specific facilities.

They found that an average of 43% of cases and 40% of deaths that occurred prior to May 24, 2020, were not reported to the NHSN. These findings suggest there were over 68,000 unreported cases and 16,000 unreported deaths in nursing homes nationwide.

What Does This Mean for California?

Current Data from NHSN reports that 5,633 nursing home residents in California died from Covid-19 in 2020. Using California’s department of health records, researchers estimate an additional 854 deaths occured in nursing homes before May 24, 2020.

This brings the total number of deaths in nursing homes to 6,487. The rate of Covid-19 nursing home deaths in California was 5.5 deaths per 100 beds in 2020.

Why Knowing the Correct Amount is Important

It’s important to account for all the cases and deaths in nursing homes due to Covid-19, even if the facility declined to report the information. It also lets researchers and government officials better understand outbreaks and how to prevent them in the future.

For example, New York and California have similar Covid-19 deaths rates among nursing home residents in 2020 when looking at only the raw data from NHSN. Rates of 4.8 deaths per 100 beds in New York and 5.0 deaths per bed in California. This suggests they had a similar amount of outbreaks.

However, after factoring in the number of unreported deaths for each state, New York has a much higher death rate in their nursing homes than California, with 8.1 deaths in New York to California’s 5.5 deaths per 100 beds. There were more outbreaks and deaths in New York, meaning government officials can compare the two states’ nursing home policies to help identify problem areas and be better prepared in the future.

Covid-19 in California Nursing Homes

Cases and deaths from Covid-19 in California nursing homes were documented before the NHSN required facilities to start reporting in May 2020. Outbreaks and staffing shortages due to the pandemic were seen in areas throughout the state as early as February.

Cases and deaths in nursing homes accounted for such a large percentage of California’s overall Covid-19 total that an Inspector General was appointed to oversee nursing homes. The Inspector General evaluates how the care facilities deal with outbreaks and manage care during the pandemic. They also examine the nursing home’s operations and conditions to ensure residents’ safety.

The Inspector General makes recommendations to care facilities on how they can improve or make changes. This position can also recommend legislation or regulations that improve care facilities for the state to enact.

Nursing Homes are Fighting Back

Nursing homes and other long-term care providers are advocating for more protection against liability for their facilities and staff. They want to make it harder for residents and their families to claim neglect and abuse cases due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While many states in the US have granted liability immunity to nursing homes, California has not. There is no liability shield currently in place for nursing homes, meaning facilities in California can still be sued.

Protect Your Loved Ones in Nursing Homes

Almost one-third of all Covid-19 deaths are linked to nursing homes. A nursing home’s higher-risk residents live in confined conditions, leading to easier spread of the virus. Staff members are not immune; many times, nursing homes are understaffed due to their nurses contracting the illness. Understaffed nursing homes put residents at greater risk of neglect and other forms of elder abuse.

Some facilities in California have even had to close and relocate residents because they did not have enough staff to care for them. Consider contacting an attorney if Covid-19 has impacted your loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.

Our legal team at Berberian Ain, LLP understands the complex regulations of elder abuse cases in California. We’ll work hard to ensure your loved one is properly cared for. Contact us today for a free consultation.