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Nunes Opening Statement at Subcommittee Hearing on Examining the COVID-19 Nursing Home Crisis

June 25, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health Devin Nunes (R-CA) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing on Examining the COVID-19 Nursing Home Crisis.

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Doggett.

“Today, we meet to learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on nursing homes. According to data from CMS, nearly 30,000 nursing home residents have lost their lives to COVID-19. That’s 1 in 4 of the total deaths in this country. Other analysis has found as many as 43 percent of U.S. COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“In my home state of California, CMS data shows we’ve seen nearly 1,677 deaths in nursing homes, about 30 percent of our state’s fatalities. At a nursing home in Tulare County— part of my home district— 29 residents have lost their lives and 121 patients and dozens of staff members have been infected.

“This is a tragedy.   

“For those continuing to live in nursing homes, including those who have recovered, life is different: visitors are limited, windows come between moments of personal connection, birthdays are often celebrated with a drive-through parade. We’ve all been touched by the stories of workers who sacrificed for their residents by isolating together in an attempt to keep COVID-19 at bay.

“We must act quickly to get this vulnerable, aging population and the workers who serve them what they need to stop the spread and save lives.

“This Congress has worked on a bipartisan basis to invest in direct support to nursing homes and to increase testing for all Americans.

“While some governors increased the risk of COVID-19 infection for our seniors by requiring nursing homes to take in residents who tested positive— decisions that our colleagues at the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, led by Whip Scalise, are investigating— the Administration has taken aggressive steps to protect nursing home residents and staff. They have issued guidance to increase testing in these facilities, improve infection controls, limit visitors, protect the financial interests of nursing home residents and mandate nursing homes report cases of COVID-19 to all residents and their families, as well as directly to the CDC.

“Critically, CMS has announced the formation of the independent Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes to provide a review and comprehensive assessment of the nursing home response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This Committee can and should provide a legislative path forward for the immediate future and longer-term reforms to prevent outbreaks in nursing homes from happening again. I look forward to today’s panel sharing their experiences and advice to help us do that.

“Some steps seem self-evident: when we have a safe and effective vaccine, vulnerable seniors and health care workers must be at the front of the line to be the first ones to receive this vaccine. Antibody tests must be accurate, and our scientists must keep their feet on the gas to tell us what, if any, immunity these antibodies might provide. Finally, the nursing home workforce must be protected with sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment.

“Before we hear from our witnesses, Mr. Doggett, I would like to make one process point: today, we have six witnesses invited by the Democrats and only one witness invited by the Republicans. Though that is consistent with the Committee rules, given the unique circumstances under which we’re currently operating, I hope going forward— especially on bipartisan issues like this one— we can see a more balanced ratio of witnesses before our Subcommittee.

“With that, I yield back.”

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