There are only 13,600 nursing homes in America but COVID-19 data is wildly inaccurate. Yet, the narrative surrounding this faulty data has fomented a national meltdown. Corrupted COVID-19 data is fully comparable to corrupted climate change data.
When the administrator of the Saugus Rehab and Nursing Center in Saugus, Massachusetts, heard that a new Medicare website reported her facility had 794 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — the second highest in the country — and 281 cases among staff, she gasped.
“Oh my God. Where are they getting those numbers from?” said Josephine Ajayi. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Those weren’t the numbers that her facility reported to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network, under new rules from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), she said.
Ajayi said her 80-bed facility actually reported 45 residents have tested positive and five residents died, although the CMS website showed no Saugus deaths. About 19 staff members tested positive for the virus, and most have returned to work, she said.
Officials at skilled nursing facilities around the country said Monday they were shocked to see their data reported inaccurately — wildly so in some cases, as at the Saugus home — on the new CMS public website launched Thursday. The numbers are scaring families, harming their reputations, and in some cases are physically impossible, given the number of beds or staff in their facilities, they said.
CMS approved an interim final rule May 1 requiring more than 15,000 nursing homes receiving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement to report COVID data by May 31, and weekly going forward.
The data fill 56 columns detailing COVID-19 infected residents, staff, testing, and equipment, going back to at least May 1. As of Thursday, CMS said 88% of the nursing homes in the country had reported. Going forward after a grace period ended June 7, they risk fines of $1,000 and up for every week they fail to update their data.
But in many cases, nursing home officials said their data were somehow scrambled, either because nursing home personnel reported in the wrong columns, or the numbers were loaded incorrectly somewhere between the CDC and CMS.
For example, Southern Pointe Living Center in Colbert, Oklahoma, with 95 beds, was reported to have had 339 residents die of COVID-19, yet no confirmed or suspected cases.
“We have not lost anyone nor have we had a [COVID-19] case in the building,” said a woman identifying herself as an assistant at Southern Pointe but who declined to give her full name. The day after CMS released the data, on Friday, she said someone from the CDC called the facility to ask if their numbers were correct as reported, “and we told them no.”
She added, “I don’t know how that happened but that is an error on their end.” As of Tuesday morning, the posted data had not been corrected.