America's nursing homes—where over 16,000 workers and residents have died from the coronavirus—have resisted federal pandemic guidelines for years, ProPublica reports. "It's just a river of grief," says a nursing-home reform advocate, "and it could have been prevented." Back in 2016, the feds issued a pandemic-preparedness policy that gave nursing homes a year to draw up plans. Each home had to address whether it would evacuate or shelter in place and how it would supply residents with power, water, food and medicine, among other things. But nursing homes urged then-president-elect Donald Trump to remove the "extremely burdensome" regulations, saying Washington should embrace "the free market that has made our country the greatest in the world."
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provided an answer: You don't have to coordinate with local authorities, but everything else, yes. Yet the nation's biggest nursing-home lobby kept resisting as inspectors found over 24,000 flaws in nursing homes' emergency plans between 2017 and 2020. One New Mexico nursing home didn't plan for pandemics after the coronavirus hit: "We never talked about COVID-19 training, I know that," says a physical therapist. "Never. Never." Now one-third of all coronavirus deaths are nursing-home workers and residents, the New York Times reported last month. "The cost is human lives," says the long-term care ombudsman in Georgia. "That's the cost of not being prepared." Click for the full story. (Read more nursing homes stories.)