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Nevada officials: Federal data on virus nursing home deaths is wrong

Updated June 9, 2020 - 1:21 pm

Federal officials erroneously inflated COVID-19 deaths among Nevada nursing home residents, state health officials are contending.

Last week, a federal report showed almost one-third of Nevada nursing home residents who died after contracting COVID-19 had not been publicly reported by state officials. The number of deaths was 126, according to the reports, dozens more than had been reported by the state.

Now, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services is contending the federal number was artificially high because some nursing homes have been reporting their cumulative number of cases each day to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, instead of reporting only new cases.

As a result, federal officials were counting some nursing home deaths more than once, state DHHS spokeswoman Shannon Litz wrote in an email. As of Tuesday morning, state officials had reported only 92 deaths among nursing home residents.

“For many facilities this level of required reporting to the federal agency is a new process,” Litz wrote. “The Department will continue to look into this and work with the facilities to help them report in an accurate and timely manner.”

In one example, Litz said federal data showed 54 residents of Premier Health and Rehabilitation Center of Las Vegas had died as of May 17, when only three residents actually had. Officials with the nursing home did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees Nevada’s nursing homes and published the federal data, did not directly address questions about the state’s assertion.

Instead, CMS pointed to newer data it published Thursday, which showed only 30 deaths among Nevada nursing home residents as of May 31, dramatically less than the state’s numbers.

“As with any new reporting program, there can be data submission errors in the beginning,” a CMS official wrote in an email. “As CMS continues to analyze the data going forward we expect fewer errors as nursing home staff get used to these requirements and CMS has more time to quality check the data.”

Inaccurate death tolls would not be the only problem with the newly released federal numbers. Multiple Nevada nursing homes told the Review-Journal last week that CMS had inaccurately flagged them for not submitting data to federal officials.

Last month CMS began requiring the facilities to submit COVID-19 data on a weekly basis to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network.

The new initiative is being used to identify problem areas and help CMS better plan infection control actions.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Davidson is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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