xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Many nursing home deaths from asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 could have been avoided | READER COMMENTARY

Maryland Baptist Aged Home, the oldest African-American owned and operated nursing home in the state, reports no deaths from COVID-19 and not a single case of the coronavirus among its 30 residents and staff of 40, which includes 21 full-time employees and 19 part-time employees. They credit early action with making the difference.
Maryland Baptist Aged Home, the oldest African-American owned and operated nursing home in the state, reports no deaths from COVID-19 and not a single case of the coronavirus among its 30 residents and staff of 40, which includes 21 full-time employees and 19 part-time employees. They credit early action with making the difference. (Maryland Baptist Aged Home)

I disagree with the assessment by Dr. Joshua Sharfstein that, as paraphrased by The Sun, it is “difficult to gauge whether more aggressive regulatory action might have made a difference” in lowering the death toll from COVID-19 at Maryland long term care facilities (“Health regulators did not inspect Maryland nursing homes for more than a month as coronavirus pandemic raged,” June 22). His observation was attributed in the article to the fact that “not enough was known about the virus’ spread early on, including that outbreaks often started with staff members who showed no signs of illness.”

Not true.

Advertisement

By January, scientists in China knew that COVID-19 was especially deadly to the elderly and suspected that the virus could be transmitted by asymptomatic carriers. Asymptomatic transmission was confirmed by study results announced Jan. 30. The next day, Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that there no longer was any doubt that asymptomatic transmission occurred. Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the same thing on Feb. 13, describing it as “concerning.”

Although the results of the Jan. 30 study later were questioned, they were reconfirmed in a second study announced Feb. 21. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulates nursing homes in consultation with the CDC. A compelling argument can be made that, as of Jan. 30, prudence dictated that the CMS assume the existence of asymptomatic transmission and advise nursing homes to take steps to protect patients against it including transmission by asymptomatic staff.

Advertisement

The first patient in a Maryland nursing home was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26. State officials determined that the patient contracted the disease from an asymptomatic staff member. It was not until April, however, that the CMS issued updated guidance intended to protect against asymptomatic transmission.

Putting aside the issue of whether there was enough testing capacity and protective gear for nursing homes to protect against asymptomatic transmission (a separate governmental failure), it certainly is the case that “more aggressive regulatory action” could have made a difference. The failure of the CMS to react in a timely manner to information about COVID-19 was one more example of the sluggish and ineffective response of the federal government to the pandemic.

David A. Plymyer, Catonsville

Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement