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Trump sending $5 billion to nursing homes to help bolster coronavirus response

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The Trump administration plans to send nearly $5 billion to nursing homes around the country to help staff improve their ability to protect against COVID-19 after thousands have died in eldercare facilities since February.

The Hill reported that the funding will be distributed to various nursing homes by the Department of Health and Human Services. The money can be utilized to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, boost testing capabilities, hire additional workers and other expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The money will also help compensate eldercare facilities for lost revenues during the pandemic, as well as help cover other costs related to coronavirus.

Trade groups that represent nursing home facilities and other long-term care institutions said that $5 billion isn’t nearly enough money to compensate for lost revenue or purchase the necessary PPE and cover other coronavirus-related expenses. That said, the administration noted the funding will provide each facility with $50,000 plus another $2,500 per bed.

“Given the gravity of the situation we are facing with this deadly virus and its impact on our vulnerable residents, long term care facilities require additional support and funding from state and federal governments to reduce its spread,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, told The Hill.

His organization represents more than 14,000 facilities throughout the United States.

Parkinson went on to say that assisted living facilities would not qualify for the additional funding, even though they, too, are faced with having to mitigate coronavirus.

The Hill noted that trade groups like the one Parkinson represents have asked for double the amount — $10 billion — that the administration is seeking to provide.

Nevertheless, news of the administration’s nursing home assistance comes as the death toll in such facilities from COVID-19 has skyrocketed, though the high rates of death are not universal.

For instance, nursing home deaths in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) acted quickly and early to protect senior living centers from the virus, are far less percentage-wise and in overall numbers than in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) actually ordered nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients in March.

An Associated Press analysis released this week found that at least 4,300 coronavirus-infected patients were ordered into New York nursing homes and eldercare facilities before Cuomo finally reversed the disastrous order earlier this month.

And a GOP congressional candidate, Chele Farley, who is running in for a seat in the Hudson Valley region near Albany said in a letter asking U.S. Attorney General William Barr to launch a probe into Cuomo’s response said that as of early May, at least 4,900 people had contracted coronavirus and died following the governor’s order.

The Hill noted that it’s still unclear how many people have died in eldercare facilities around the country due to coronavirus because not every state has released those figures yet and the Trump administration isn’t tracking those deaths specifically.

However, at least 28,100 residents and workers in elder care facilities have died thus far, according to a New York Times estimate — fully one-third of all COVID-19 deaths in the country to date.

Health experts knew early in the outbreak that older people and those with pre-existing co-morbidities were more susceptible to catching the disease and dying from it. They note that older people also have naturally weakened immune systems that help exacerbate the disease’s deleterious and deadly effects.

The first U.S. ‘hot spot’ for coronavirus, in fact, was in Washington State, including a nursing home where dozens caught the disease and died.

As for eldercare facilities themselves, The Hill notes that oftentimes they are short-staffed and often have high rates of employee turnover due to a number of factors including low pay and limited paid time off that leads to workers coming in sick.

“A report issued this week by a nonpartisan government watchdog found that more than 80 percent of all nursing homes surveyed between 2013 and 2017 — about 13,300 facilities — were cited for at least one infection control deficiency in that time period and for failing to follow rules intended to prevent the spread of diseases, like staff hand-washing protocols,” The Hill added.

Jon Dougherty

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