Skip to content

Blumenthal Introduces Bicameral, Comprehensive Legislation to Address COVID-19 Crisis in Nursing Homes

[WASHINGTON D.C.] – U.S. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) will introduce the Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents and Workers During COVID-19 to address the high proportion of COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes around the country. This legislation protects the health and well-being of those living and working in nursing homes by prioritizing infection control and prevention, testing, and the availability of personal protective equipment; surging funding for strike teams to the hardest hit nursing homes; mandating transparency and reporting of COVID-19 cases and fatalities; and requiring the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to conduct more comprehensive oversight, including inspections and guidance.

Despite the hard work of essential frontline health workers, in Connecticut, nearly 58 percent of COVID-19-related deaths occurred in nursing homes, accounting for 1,249 individuals who have lost their lives. Further, CMS has yet to implement data gathering so that it is still not know the full extent of COVID-19 cases and fatalities among residents or the workers who care for them on a national scale.

“This bill introduces new standards to ensure the safety of nursing home residents, protect the workers who heroically care for them, and guarantee much needed transparency,” said Blumenthal. “It also expands residents’ ability to virtually connect with loved ones, alleviating the loneliness and uncertainty that has accompanied this crisis. We can and must do more to protect our most vulnerable members of society, and this bill is a first step in the right direction.”

Specifically, the Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents and Workers During COVID-19 Act would immediately address the inadequate response to the COVID-19 crisis in our nursing homes by guaranteeing:

  • QUALITY OF CARE: Requires facilities to employ a full-time infection preventionist; ensure adequate numbers of staff to assist residents in making weekly “virtual visits;” allow residents the right to return if they leave during the COVID-19 crisis; obtain sign-off from residents or representatives for transfer or discharge
  • WORKER SAFETY: Requires facilities to provide comprehensive worker training around COVID-19, sufficient PPE, and at least two weeks of paid sick leave for all employees
  • INCREASED TESTING: Requires weekly testing for residents and daily pre-shift testing for staff, or screenings until sufficient tests become available
  • TRANSPARENCY: Requires facilities to report COVID-19 cases, including demographic information, all COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 fatalities, PPE available and projected need, staffing and testing data every 24 hours; requires facilities to inform residents, residents, their representatives, and workers within 12 hours of a death or confirmed case; requires CDC and CMS to coordinate to publicly post COVID-19 data online
  • STRIKE TEAMS: Authorizes $500 million for states to establish expert strike teams for resident and worker safety to be deployed within 72 hours of 3+ confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases in a facility
  • INFECTION CONTROL: Requires state survey agencies to ensure surveyors have adequate PPE and conduct an inspection within 72 hours if ratio of fatalities to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases exceeds 5%
  • RESIDENT RIGHTS: Requires CMS to establish criteria for facility to be designated as COVID-19-only, to develop a plan to address complaint surveys that have been paused during the emergency, and to reinstitute pre-pandemic requirements as soon as possible
  • IMPROVED CONGREGATE LIVING: Requires the Secretary to issue public recommendations to congregate living facilities outside CMS jurisdiction around virtual visits, worker safety, and infection prevention.

In addition to Blumenthal, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) cosponsored the legislation in the Senate. Companion legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Conor Lamb (PA-17), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Ted Deutch (FL-22).

Endorsing organizations of this legislation include: the Alliance for Retired Americans; California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform; Center for Medicare Advocacy; Gray Panthers; Justice in Aging; Long Term Care Community Coalition; the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care; Public Citizen; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Shriver Center on Poverty Law; Social Security Works; Western Center on Law & Poverty.