Nursing Home COVID-19 Outbreak Risks Corresponds With Quality Ratings: CDC

The findings of a new CDC study highlight the link between COVID-19 and nursing home quality of care, indicating facilities which score better in federal ratings have been less likely to experience severe outbreaks at their facilities.

In the latest issue of the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers found a correlation between how well a nursing home was rated by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and whether the facility was able to prevent or control COVID-19 outbreaks during the on-going pandemic.

In general, the better the nursing home scored, the better it was able to protect its residents from the deadly virus.

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The study used data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to identify all nursing home coronavirus outbreaks from March 14 through June 11, 2020. For the study, outbreaks were defined as two or more cases within 14 days.

Researchers also used data from the CMS Nursing Home Compare website as of June 11, which gives facilities a rating of one star (much below average) to five stars (much above average) based on several factors, including health inspections, staffing levels, quality measures, and an overall rating.

According to the findings, 14 out of 123 nursing homes across the state experienced a COVID-19 outbreak.

“Compared with 1-star–rated (lowest rated) nursing homes, the odds of a COVID-19 outbreak were 87% lower among 2- to 3-star–rated facilities and 94% lower among 4- to 5-star–rated facilities,” the researchers noted. “Health departments could use star ratings to help identify priority nursing homes in their jurisdictions to inform the allocation of IPC resources. Efforts to mitigate outbreaks in high-risk nursing homes are necessary to reduce overall COVID-19 mortality and associated disparities.”

COVID-19 Nursing Home Outbreaks

Throughout the course of the pandemic, significant attention has been placed on the outbreak’s progress through nursing homes, which have been hard hit due to low levels of staffing, a lack of preparation, and the elderly’s increased vulnerability to the effects of the virus.

In August, CMS released a report indicating nursing home and long term health care facilities had reported 216,219 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with another 129,338 suspected cases. Of the confirmed cases, a total of 53,196 COVID-19 related deaths were reported.

Federal investigators are exploring the possibility of nursing home neglect playing a role in the COVID-19 outbreak, which was first detected in a nursing home in Washington State that became the epicenter for the U.S. pandemic. Investigators say the nursing home failed to respond to the outbreak adequately, placing residents in jeopardy of illness and death.

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