The Trump administration will unveil mandatory coronavirus testing and reporting rules for nursing homes this week to prevent a recurrence of the tragic death toll in New York, The Post has learned.
The new rules require that nursing homes offer tests to patients if anyone in the facility contracts COVID-19 or exhibits symptoms. And in most cases, the nursing homes will be required to publicly report test results.
“These new rules represent a dramatic ramp-up in our efforts to track and control the spread of COVID-19, especially in nursing homes,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement.
One administration official was more blunt in describing the changes.
“President Trump is mandating everything Gov. Cuomo failed to do in order to protect America’s seniors from this virus,” the official said.
The coronavirus swept through Empire State nursing homes in March and April, killing at least 6,500 people. The true toll could be much higher, as some fatalities aren’t counted by the state — including residents transported to a hospital before their death.
An Associated Press analysis found that as many as 11,000 New York nursing home residents may have died.
Cuomo’s Health Department issued a controversial March 25 rule barring nursing homes from turning away coronavirus-positive patients, and his role in sending 6,300 infected people to nursing homes during the crisis has been blamed in part for the higher death rate in New York.
The Trump administration is able to force the new testing and transparency due to the federal government’s power to dispense Medicare and Medicare funds.
An aggressive effort to get point-of-care COVID-19 testing — rapid tests that offer on-site results — in all nursing homes will provide the capability ahead of the fall flu season, administration officials said.
A fact sheet on the new rules seen by The Post says that “laboratories — including nursing homes using point-of-care testing devices — will be required to publicly report diagnostic test results and costs. The new rules also require hospitals to report COVID-19 cases and related data to the US Department of Health and Human Services.”
The document notes that the Trump administration is “providing point-of-care testing devices and test kits to each of the Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes in the nation that received a Clinical Lab Improvement Amendments waiver to conduct low-complexity testing.” About 90 percent had a waiver as of last month, and the vast majority of US nursing homes are Medicare and/or Medicaid certified.
Staff working at nursing homes will also be subject to mandatory testing, but the criteria are yet to be determined.
A separate initiative rolling out this week from CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will offer training to nursing home staff, utilizing lessons learned by the agencies’ nursing home “strike teams” during the first wave of infections this year.
Nursing homes that do not comply with the new testing and disclosure rules will face financial penalties.
Cuomo on Monday gave a self-congratulatory speech at the Democratic National Convention about his management of the crisis, despite the massive toll at nursing homes.
He blasted the Trump administration as “dysfunctional and incompetent” and cheered New York under his leadership, saying, “We climbed the impossible mountain. Right now we are on the other side.”
The governor is preparing to release a book he wrote about the pandemic. The book is titled “American Crisis” and will be released Oct. 13.
New York, the original epicenter of the US outbreak, has more than twice as many COVID-19 fatalities — more than 32,000 — than any other state, despite having fewer cases than three states.
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