The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released data Thursday on the number of reported cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes across the country. The data includes specifics on which facilities have cases — information that both Texas and Austin officials had previously refused to release, citing privacy laws.
The data shows West Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has the highest number of confirmed or suspected cases in Central Texas. The center also has the second highest number of confirmed cases in the state, behind a nursing home in El Paso. There are several facilities around the state, though, that report much higher numbers of suspected cases.
According to CMS, there are at least 95,515 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes nationwide, with another 58,288 suspected cases. There have also been 31,782 deaths as of June 1.
In Texas, CMS reported 1,927 confirmed cases and among residents. That’s much lower than the Texas Department of State Health Services’ data. CMS officials say the difference may be due to different reporting guidelines by various agencies.
The data comes with a number of caveats. It relies on reporting from nursing homes, and 88% of them nationwide reported, according to CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Officials stress the information only includes CMS-certified nursing homes, so other facilities like assisted living centers are not in the CMS numbers. Also, while nursing homes are required to report data from May 8 and later, some have chosen to report all the way back to January.
The data is searchable on the CMS website, under the Nursing Home Compare page.
Officials say they ramped up the data collection quickly, so they are working on quality control. But they still feel confident the data paints a fair picture of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
“I think it’s very important to know that these numbers are going to move in the next couple of weeks,” Verma said in a call with reporters Thursday. “We see nursing homes, more of them reporting in, and we’re going to continue to work on scrubbing the data.”
In Austin, the data showed that West Oaks had the most confirmed COVID-19-related deaths — 22. The center reported two staff members have died from COVID-19. The mother of one of those staff members, Maurice Dotson, is suing the owners of West Oaks for failing to adequately protect her son and other staff members from the coronavirus.
West Oaks reported that it had a shortage of nursing and support staff, but did have supplies of personal protective equipment. It reported 81 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents.
Other facilities reported a number of suspected cases among residents, including Sedona Trace on Cameron Road with 34, and Windsor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Duval Road with 16.
The CMS data also measured total deaths at facilities during this time period. Onion Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center reported the highest number of total deaths in Austin — 39. But none of those were related to COVID-19, according to a spokeswoman for the facility’s owner, Regency Integrated Health Services. The facility only reported seven suspected COVID-19 cases among residents.
At least five facilities in Austin have not reported any data to CMS.
In a statement to KUT, a spokesperson said that Austin Public Health is aware of the new date released by CMS.
“While nursing homes are regulated by the state, APH has been collecting its own COVID-19-related data that gives us insight into how to address and direct resources to a facility if there is an outbreak," the statement read. "APH has been reporting its nursing home cluster data to the extent that the state permits us. This data can be found on the COVID-19 web site (austintexas.gov/covid19) and is presented during the Austin City Council Work Session and Travis County Commissioners Court meetings.”
While there has been a lot of attention placed on nursing homes during the pandemic, Verma said the vast majority of nursing homes in the country did not report significant numbers of cases or deaths.
“I think it speaks to the nursing homes that were more focused on the federal guidelines and the recommendations, and a good job with implementing those,” she said.
The Trump administration required nursing homes to report COVID-19 cases to staff and families, and after that, vowed to release the information publicly. Facilities face weekly fines if they fail to report data.
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