Michigan set to name nursing homes with COVID-19 outbreaks

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan intends to begin publishing the names of nursing homes with outbreaks of COVID-19, as well as the number of suspected cases that each has.

People inside the Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center wear PPEs as they watch a protest in front of the Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on E. Jefferson in Detroit, Thursday afternoon, April 9, 2020.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which has not previously disclosed this information, will begin sharing data on nursing homes and cases later this week, spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said. 

Nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly have suffered greatly amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the Associated Press tracking at least  4,412 deaths at nursing homes across the nation.

More than two dozen deaths were reported earlier this month at facilities in Livonia and Riverview.

Michigan's decision comes as the federal government on Sunday said it will now require nursing homes to inform residents, their families or representatives when a staffer or resident contracts the illness at a facility.

The notification must come within 12 hours of a confirmed case, and follows instances of nursing homes not disclosing outbreaks. 

And after not tracking the infections and deaths at nursing homes, federal officials are also now requiring facilities to report cases directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“It's important that patients and their families have the information that they need, and they need to understand what's going on in the nursing home,” Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said at the White House briefing Sunday. 

About 85% of Michigan's 2,700 COVID-19 deaths have been people age 60 and older, with an median age of 75, according to state data. Michigan has nearly 33,000 confirmed cases of the illness, ranking sixth in the nation. 

State officials said this week they are devoting more resources to outbreaks in Michigan's "congregate" facilities — a category that includes the state's 458 nursing homes. 

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, said Monday that officials are aware of at least 243 congregate facilities with outbreaks of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 as of April 15, but she did not say how many of those facilities are nursing homes. Khaldun called the trend "very concerning." 

Congregate facilities include adult foster care, group homes, homeless shelters, independent living facilities, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, prisons and juvenile justice facilities. Michigan has 292 homes for the aged and 4,211 adult foster cares facilities.

The state has started requiring every skilled nursing facility to report suspected COVID-19 cases to the Michigan DHHS and next week expects to add more reporting requirements for all long-term care facilities, Khaldun said.

This new reporting requirement reflects an executive order issued last week by Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon.

The facilities previously only had to report outbreaks of respiratory illness to local health departments, which then report the data to the state agency, Sutfin said.

New teams of local health department staff, epidemiologists and clinicians will begin working closely with facilities to ensure they are following best infection-prevention protocols and testing residents appropriately for COVID-19. 

"We are finalizing guidance to these facilities, and these teams should be available to them in the coming week. We will prioritize facilities based on need," Sutfin said. 

The state also said it is organizing regional "hubs" with the infrastructure and protective gear for staff in place to care for nursing home residents with COVID-19 who don't need to be hospitalized but whose nursing facilities are "unable to safely care" for them, Khaldun said. 

Sutfin said the department has offered the designation of a COVID-19 Regional Hub to a number of facilities across the state with the highest density in the hot spots.

Facilities were required to agree to conditions of participation and to provide information, such as facility floor plans, to the agency to attest that appropriate safety standards could be met, Sutfin said.

She said the department would likely provide more information on the number of facilities and names later this week.