National attention has been captured by the protests and riots breaking out all over the US in response to the death of George Floyd last week, obscuring a bombshell report released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the CDC on Monday.
According to the report, 60,000 nursing home patients were infected by COVID-19 in May, and of those, 26,000 died. An additional 34,000 nursing home staffers were infected resulting in the deaths of 400 in the same time period.
This means that nursing home deaths from coronavirus in the month of May alone total nearly a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths in the US.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma wrote in a letter to state governors that “this data, and anecdotal reports across the country, clearly show that nursing homes have been devastated by the virus.”
According to the report, the death toll and caseload is likely much higher than currently reported, as nursing homes were only required to report cases and deaths from the month of May. The pandemic began ramping up in the US in mid-March.
NBC News confirmed that almost 3,000 nursing homes have still not submitted their data, and a handful of states have also yet to release nursing home deaths data, pointing to the likelihood that the current total of nursing home deaths is still vastly underestimated.
At least two US governors, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), and NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) specifically ordered that nursing homes in their states could not refuse to admit patients that had COVID-19. Though they have attempted to lay the blame at the Trump administration’s feet, the responsibility lies with them.
Public health officials and infectious disease experts knew that coronavirus disproportionately affects older adults long before COVID-19 took hold of the US, yet these governors — who also presided over the worst outbreaks of any US states — specifically sent thousands of coronavirus-positive patients into nursing homes for weeks before reversing the orders.