Big discrepancies found in Houston-area data in new federal tool designed to track COVID-19 in nursing homes

There are big discrepancies in Houston-area data in new federal tool designed to track COVID-19 in nursing homes
There are big discrepancies in Houston-area data in new federal tool designed to track COVID-19 in nursing homes

HOUSTON – The federal government has launched a new database to track COVID-19 in the nation’s nursing homes. But a Channel 2 Investigation has found gaps in some of the information on facilities in the Houston area.

Nursing homes account for nearly half of all COVID-related deaths in the U.S. But public tracking of which facilities had cases and deaths has been difficult, if not impossible, in some states since they haven’t been required to report them. In April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) notified more than 15,000 nursing homes that they would be required to report that information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and as of the database’s release last week, all but 1,800 of them had responded in some way.

The national picture

According to CMS, there have been more than 95,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 32,000 deaths in nursing homes as of May 31. But when looking at the data for individual nursing homes, there are some discrepancies. CMS warns that due to how some facilities submitted their information, and since it’s a new program, users should consider those limitations when looking at the database.

Importance of tracking the virus in nursing homes

In Texas, roughly 40% of all COVID-related deaths have been in nursing homes. That’s why these facilities remain a focal point in the battle to stop the spread of the virus.

“This is really the biggest concern that we have,” said Dr. Umair Shah, Executive Director of Harris County Public Health. He says when dealing with a fragile population, there is no room for error when it comes to infection control.

“It has to be meticulous, it has to be a hundred percent and it has to be consistent and that’s the challenge,” he said.