13 Investigates: First look at nursing homes with worst COVID-19 outbreak

BySarah Rafique KTRK logo
Friday, June 5, 2020
First look at nursing homes with worst COVID-19 outbreak
First look at nursing homes with worst COVID-19 outbreak

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- More than 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Texas have occurred at nursing homes, but before Thursday, it was impossible to know which facilities had the worst outbreaks.

The Texas Department of State Health Services recently began providing a statewide and regional view of how many confirmed staff and residents cases were at those facilities, but refused to name the exact locations, saying "DSHS doesn't release disease information by healthcare facility."

However, after calls for the location of those deaths to be released, the federal government finally provided specifics on the number of cases and deaths among residents and staff.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released COVID-19 case and death data for Medicare-skilled nursing facilities and Medicaid nursing facilities.

A facility in El Paso topped the list with 91 cases, but only reported two deaths. A facility in Austin had the second most number of cases - 81 confirmed victims and 22 deaths.

INTERACTIVE: Want to know how many COVID-19 cases are your or your loved ones nursing home? 13 Investigates mapped out every facility in Texas and how many residents and staff members were diagnosed or died. The red dots indicate facilities that did not provide information and the larger blue dots indicate facilities with cases. On mobile device? Click here for a full screen experience.

A 13 Investigates analysis of the data shows not all of Texas' 706 COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes have been reported to the federal government. The federal data shows fewer deaths. That's because hundreds of nursing home facilities in Texas have not reported data to CMS.

CMS says the first deadline for reporting COVID-19 cases and deaths, for both residents and staff, was May 17. Facilities are required to report the data on a weekly basis, and not doing so could result in a fine.

On May 11, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed the state to test every single resident and staff member at Texas nursing homes.

"The State of Texas is working to rapidly expand our testing capacity-especially among vulnerable populations in Texas nursing homes," Abbott said in a statement last month. "This important collaboration among (Texas Health and Human Services Commission), (Texas Division of Emergency Management), and (Texas Department of State Health Services) will ensure that any potential clusters of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are quickly detected and contained."

In Texas, more than 22 percent of facilities that have released data have had at least one resident or employee contract the virus. But it could be weeks before residents get a clearer picture of which facilities have the worst outbreaks. It'll depend on when the remaining facilities comply.

Nationwide, there's been more than 95,000 confirmed cases at nursing homes, including 32,000 deaths, according to CMS.

But, across the U.S. only 88 percent of the 15,400 Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes reported the required information.

The data also offers a glimpse of how each facility is doing when it comes to providing personal protective equipment, with most nursing homes showing they have sufficient supplies.

On a mobile device? Click here.

But, more than 17 percent of nursing facilities in Texas are reporting shortages when it comes to nursing, clinical, aides or other staff, according to a 13 Investigate analysis. The most widespread shortage is among nursing staff and aides.

CMS announced the requirement for "nursing homes to inform residents, their families, and their representatives of COVID-19 cases in their facilities" on April 19.

The agency is also conducting targeted inspections separate "to allow inspectors to focus on the most serious health and safety threats like infectious diseases and abuse during the pandemic."

So far, the federal government has surveyed 94 percent of all Texas nursing homes for infection control. Results for 48 percent of facilities - or those surveyed through April 29 - are currently available.

The data shows 56 Texas nursing homes had issues, ranging from not providing and implementing infection prevention programs to not developing care plans that meet the needs of residents.