Public Worry Grows; Nursing Home Fatalities Rise

CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY, NOT IMMUNITY

Welcome to the latest edition of “Corporate Accountability, Not Immunity,” a daily tipsheet highlighting key news and important facts on why Congress should not give corporations legal immunity from coronavirus-related harms to workers, consumers, patients and the public. Also refer to our tipsheet on misleading claims from industry groups and conservative lawmakers. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

NURSING HOME DEATHS SURPASS 50,000: The coronavirus-related death toll at nursing homes and senior care facilities has surpassed 50,000, accounting for at least 40% of the more than 116,000 deaths in the U.S. related to COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, thousands of nursing homes have yet to be visited by inspectors to see if staff are following proper procedures to prevent coronavirus transmission. Instead of pushing for clear science-based safety standards, the nursing home industry wants blanket immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits. Immunity will do nothing to curtail the practices that led to the fatalities and would eliminate families’ sole means of holding facilities accountable for failing to take adequate care.

U.S. HOUSE INVESTIGATES NURSING HOME FATALITIES: U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), chair of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, has written to the country’s largest nursing home operators and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services demanding thorough reports on their handling of the pandemic. “Deregulation and lax enforcement of infection control violations by CMS – both before and during the pandemic – may have contributed to the spread of the virus,” he wrote on Tuesday. The letter continued: “At a June 11, 2020, briefing, health experts and affected Americans told the Select Subcommittee that many nursing homes do not have adequate testing, personal protective equipment, and infection control measures to protect vulnerable residents and workers. Briefers also warned that CMS’s failure to enforce infection control standards, relaxation of inspection requirements, and limited data collection regarding outbreaks may have exacerbated the spread of the virus in nursing homes.” Granting nursing homes immunity from liability for patients harmed by negligent practices would do nothing to remedy these deficiencies and would increase the likelihood of continued failure to adopt and follow reasonable practices.

MAJORITY OF AMERICANS REMAIN WORRIED ABOUT VENTURING OUT: Although public health experts say that we are still in the midst of the first wave of the pandemic, the country has started to open up. Yet 54% of Americans remain extremely or very concerned about the coronavirus, while 56% are extremely or very concerned about a second wave, according to the latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index. In the poll, which has been tracking public opinion on the pandemic over three months, Americans report seeing many activities as riskier than just a week ago. The sense of risk associated with dining in at a restaurant (64% risky, up from 60%), shopping at a retail store (57% risky, up from 52%) or going to a barber or salon (58% risky, up from 54%) all have increased this week. As we keep saying, we won’t have a sustainable economic recovery until people feel safe returning to stores, restaurants and salons – and giving businesses immunity from liability would remove a key deterrent of unsafe practices that will leave Americans feeling less safe.