Lawmakers introduce legislation to protect nursing home residents and workers

Lawmakers introduce legislation to protect nursing home residents and workers

WASHINGTON — As the COVID-19 virus continues to claim lives of residents and workers in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) are introducing legislation to curb the rising death count and assist with vaccinations.

The COVID-19 Nursing Home Protection Act would provide funding to ensure that nursing homes have the resources they need to keep residents and workers safe. Funding would go towards providing vital infection control assistance and organizing local health and emergency workers – known as “strike” or “surge” teams – to manage COVID-19 outbreaks and care for residents. The legislation would also require demographic data collection on the virus in nursing homes, according to a news release.

More than 170,000 residents and workers in long-term care settings have died from COVID-19, accounting for approximately 35% of deaths in the U.S.

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“The challenge this terrible virus poses is unprecedented and requires an immediate and extraordinary response. That is why my colleagues and I are advancing strategies to give states what they need – funding for ‘strike’ teams to help address staffing shortages in nursing homes and assist with vaccinations in these settings. We have an obligation to protect our most at-risk citizens,” said Casey.

The COVID-19 Nursing Home Protection Act would provide $750 million in funding for states to implement strike teams and $210 million for the secretary of Health and Human Services to contract with quality improvement organizations to provide essential infection control assistance to nursing homes. The bill would also require the HHS secretary to collect and make public demographic data on COVID-19 cases and deaths, including information on age, race, ethnicity and preferred language. The effects of the pandemic have been most devastating in communities of color, where research has found that facilities serving significant numbers of Black and Hispanic residents had case and death counts three times higher than in facilities serving a higher proportion of white residents.

The COVID-19 Nursing Home Protection Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jack Reed (D-RI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

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