The Coronavirus Pandemic has laid bare a great many injustices in the United States. None more so than the tragedy that is taking place in America’s nursing homes, assisted living and long term care facilities.
Families with loved ones in long term care in every city and every state in the country have reported that nursing home administrators have not been forthcoming about infection rates of both staff and residents. While a significant majority of these homes had infection control issues prior to the onset of the pandemic, families have reported that there has sometimes been little, if any, information provided as to whether proper infection procedures are now being followed, whether staff are properly equipped with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and what, if any, measures have been taken when a staff member or resident has tested positive for COVID-19.
Even with a federal mandate, states like Arizona are still pushing back on releasing the names of long term care facilities that have had an outbreak or deaths due to coronavirus infections. Families still have to rely on local media outlets for those numbers.
More concerning still is that fact that both for profit and nonprofit long term care lobbying groups have been successful in 15 states, including New York, Michigan and Illinois, in convincing governors to enact liability protections during the pandemic. These protections make it extremely difficult to take legal action against a long term care facility after the death of a loved one from COVID-19. In Michigan and New York, governors have received push back for essentially forcing nursing homes to take coronavirus patients (the New York governor recently reversed that decision).
With families and even local ombudsmen unable to visit facilities to ensure that residents are being protected, families have little or no recourse or access to any information that long term care administrators and state departments of health do not wish to provide.
While, in those states with stay-at home orders, probate and family courts nationwide have ceased regular operations during the pandemic, the majority remained open for emergency petitions for guardianship and/or conservatorship.