17848 DOH Testing Lab

Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Kerry Pollard performs a manual extraction of the coronavirus inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories on Friday, March 6, 2020.

Federal regulators have informed nursing homes they're soon going to implement two new reporting requirements.

A news release said one "will require nursing homes to inform residents, their families and representatives of COVID-19 cases in their facilities."

The second will "now require nursing homes to report cases of COVID-19 directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," in addition to the existing requirement that they notify state and local health departments.

“Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19," said Seema Verma, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency that regulates nursing homes. "Nursing home reporting to the CDC is a critical component of the go-forward national COVID-19 surveillance system and to efforts to reopen America.”

The agency has made a number of oversight changes and recommendations to nursing homes about COVID-19 in recent weeks. A key one was on April 2, when it advised facilities that they should use separate staffing teams for residents "to the best of their ability" and work "to designate separate facilities or units within a facility to separate COVID-19 negative residents from COVID-19 positive residents and individuals with unknown COVID-19 status."

As of Sunday, the latest numbers from Pennsylvania Department of Health show 624 of the state's 1,112 COVID-19 deaths have been associated with nursing homes or similar facilities, which reported 4,450 resident and 479 staff cases across 368 facilities. 

According to the department, in Lancaster County 21 facilities had 260 resident and 55 staff cases, and 44 deaths.

The department hasn't named the facilities or provided more detailed information about nursing home outbreaks here, but many local nursing homes have issued some kind of public report on COVID-19 cases or deaths