Article by Dena Bunis, AARP

“As nursing homes across the country continue to be ravaged by the coronavirus, two U.S. senators offered ideas Thursday for how to make the facilities safer and provide a better quality of life for residents. Their recommendations ranged from more frequent testing of workers to legislation that would provide the technology to allow residents to have virtual visits with their families.

Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) were part of an AARP-sponsored virtual event with Axios, an online news site. The event also featured Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer.

According to the latest data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 35,000 residents in 7,700 long-term care facilities have succumbed to COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

“Nursing homes are full of people who fought in wars and worked in our factories and raised our children … and built the greatest country in the world,” Casey said. “The least that we could do is to make sure that we don’t have a repetition of what has happened over the last several months where tens of thousands of people are dying in nursing homes.”

Casey pointed to his repeated push for more disclosure of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, something AARP also is seeking. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) now requires nursing homes to report all COVID cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as to continue reporting to local public health authorities. Residents and their families are also supposed to be notified. CMS has said this data will be made public by the end of May. So far CMS has not said exactly when and how it will begin disclosing such information.”

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