July 17, 2020

Warren, Murray, Casey, and Wyden Urge CDC and CMS to Collect All Necessary Demographic Data from Nursing Homes on COVID-19 Outbreaks

Nursing Home Residents, People of Color Have Borne the Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 "CMS' failure to require nursing homes to report their data or secure this information has left policymakers and the public completely in the dark about the pandemic's impact on some of our most vulnerable community members."

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the Special Committee on Aging, Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging them to begin collecting and publicly releasing demographic data on residents and workers of nursing homes who are diagnosed with COVID-19. In the letter, the Senators point to the disproportionate effect of the coronavirus pandemic on nursing home residents and communities of color and question CMS' failure to collect such critical data. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a deadly impact on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and all evidence indicates that people of color have disproportionately borne that impact." the lawmakers wrote. "We urge you to fully inform the national response to this crisis by expanding this data collection to include race, ethnicity, sex, age, primary language, and disability status. We must ensure that this information is collected and shared with the public." 

In May, CMS and CDC began collecting and releasing data on the number of cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities from COVID-19 in nursing homes. However, the data does not include demographic information such as race/ethnicity, sex, or primary language spoken by residents. Demographic disparities within nursing homes are likely to mirror those in the general population: a New York Times report found that facilities serving significant numbers of Black and Hispanic residents were twice as likely to have had COVID-19 infections. These disparities are of particular concern because of the high rates of infection and death from COVID-19 within these facilities.

"This information is crucial to understanding disparities both within and between long-term care facilities. Such data should be used to direct resources to the facilities at the highest risk and to provide appropriate guidance to providers, residents, and family members," continued the lawmakers.  

The lawmakers asked CDC and CMS to respond to their inquiry by no later than July 29th, 2020.

This letter follows up on Senator Warren's advocacy for greater transparency and oversight of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities and the need for addressing racial disparities in the response to COVID-19. Recently, Senator Warren released findings from her office's investigation into coronavirus outbreaks at facilities run by the nation's 11 largest assisted living operators and the actions these facilities are taking to prevent and mitigate outbreaks when they do occur. Following the report, the Senator unveiled the Assisted Living Facility Coronavirus Reporting Act to put in place national data collection and reporting requirements to ensure that assisted living facilities adequately protect residents from COVID-19. Senator Warren has also introduced bicameral legislation to require the federal government to collect and report coronavirus demographic data--including race and ethnicity, parts of which were included in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act