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Nearly 26,000 COVID-19 Deaths Reported in U.S. Nursing Homes; Federal Officials Demand More Inspections

Nearly 26,000 nursing home residents have died after contracting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the federal government reported Monday. 

Federal officials are demanding states perform more inspections and have vowed higher fines for facilities with poor infection control. 

The partial data released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights what a disproportionately high death toll the virus has had in nursing homes. 

More than 60,000 people in nursing homes across the U.S. have contracted the disease as the virus spread rapidly among vulnerable elderly residents. 1 in 4 facilities had at least one COVID-19 case, and 1 in 5 reported at least one death. Nursing homes rated at 1 or 2 stars using the CMS's 5-star rating system fared worse. CMS is expecting to post the full data for researchers and the general public later this week. 

In Illinois, nursing homes account for 52 percent of all COVID-19 deaths reported in the state, according to data published by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) last Friday. The agency reported 2,747 COVID-19 deaths and 17,133 confirmed cases in Illinois nursing homes. 

In an effort to better handle outbreaks in nursing homes, Illinois officials have mandated nursing homes and long-term care facilities test all residents and staffers for the virus. Every facility is to report the number of residents and staffers tested, as well as their test results.

The CMS require all nursing homes to have an infection control and prevention plan in place in case of a disease outbreak. Facilities that fail to follow federal guidance may be held liable for any resulting deaths

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