Report: Much needs doing to shield nursing homes from virus

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Vice President Mike Pence, accompanied by Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma, left, participates in a meeting on safety and quality for nursing homes in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is claiming “resounding vindication” from an independent commission's report on the coronavirus crisis in nursing homes, but some panel members say that’s a misinterpretation of their conclusion that much remains to be done to safeguard vulnerable residents.

People in long-term care facilities represent less than 1% of the U.S. population but more than 40% of the coronavirus deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project, which has tallied 77,000 deaths among residents and staff. Those harsh numbers are a sensitive political issue for President Donald Trump, who is trying to hang on to support from older voters.

Vice President Mike Pence met with some of the commission members Thursday and called their report “a significant contribution to our ongoing effort to ensure the health and well-being of our seniors in nursing homes and long-term care facilities around the country.”

The commission was set up by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS. Agency administrator Seema Verma called its findings “an invaluable action plan for the future and a resounding vindication of our overall approach to date.”

But with 27 major recommendations in the commission report, it's not time for for officials to take a bow, several members noted.

“There’s an enormous to-do list in front of us,” said Terry Fulmer, a commission member and president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, which works to improve care for older adults.

The administration says it has already acted, or made progress, on most issues flagged.

It hasn't gone far enough, said Fulmer.