The Cost of Inaction

11 Deaths an Hour

A Senate Report called “The Cost of Inaction – 11 Deaths An Hour – COVID-19 in Nurisng Homes” came out this week, The Report explains how Trump’s many failures to act caused numerous preventable deaths in nursing homes. Trump downplayed the severity of the virus for six weeks, comparing it to the flu. Trump wasted all that time doing nothing.

At least, 78,000 residents have died so far. However, nursing homes did not collect accurate data prior to May 1, 2020. The number is much higher if you count the hundreds of residents who died during March and April. Nursing home residents and caregivers represent 40% of confirmed deaths by coronavirus.

The Report lists several failures that made the pandemic worse. The Report harshly (but justifiably) concludes: “Tens of thousands of grandparents, parents, veterans, neighbors, friends and essential workers might still be alive today had it not been for the President’s flippant disregard for medical science, the Trump Administration’s anemic response to the pandemic, and the fecklessness of Republicans in Congress.”

Duty to Warn

Trump intentionally and carelessly downplayed the coronavirus when it first appeared which was a major mistake. His indifference and ignorance did not allow him to understand simple scientific methods.

Despite early warning signs and continued calls from States, local communities, industry, and advocates for additional funding, enhanced coordination, and federal leadership, the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress continue to fail to deliver needed aid to nursing homes, their residents, and their workers.”

Adequate Supplies

There has been a lack of PPE and reliable rapid point of care tests. Trump initially declined to pursue more aggressive testing because of fear that more positive cases would hurt his bid for re-election. “Free markets will solve this,” Kushner allegedly said. “That is not the role of government.”

The inadequate supply remains a problem in the vast majority of nursing homes. “In July 2020 a 25-member commission, convened by CMS, directly warned the agency that nursing homes faced ongoing shortages of PPE and testing supplies, writing that without “additional federal action” in these areas, “the virus will continue to spread.” Additionally, in September 2020, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that “COVID-19 challenges for nursing homes remain, including challenges related to PPE, testing, and staffing shortages.

Trump ignored a National Security Council playbook on fighting pandemics. According to the playbook, Trump should have obtained personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves, and gowns immediately. They didn’t. And the U.S. reported severe shortages of those supplies. The cost of inaction remains a major problem.

Safe Staffing

Of course, the biggest threat continues to be inadequate and unsafe staff without proper training and supervision. The nursing home industry has struggled to maintain an adequate workforce in the best of times. It has only gotten worse during the pandemic. One in five nursing homes nationwide reporting shortages of aides and one in seven reporting shortages of nurses.

In July and August 2020, 15 percent or more of nursing homes reported shortages in nursing staff every week. As of August 30, 2020, more than 15 percent of nursing homes reported that they were experiencing shortages of nurses, and almost 20 percent of facilities reported shortages of aides. These shortages are even more alarming given preliminary studies suggesting that adequate staffing, particularly among nurses, may help limit the severity of facility outbreaks.”

The good news is we can fix these problems with leadership and action. However, Trump does not seem interested in doing so. In remarks to reporters Tuesday, Trump said, “it’s a shame” that 201,000 died so far from COVID-19 in the U.S.  He then said, without any self-awareness or irony, “it should have never, ever happened“.  The cost of inaction is high, and America is paying for it.