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Government action took months as nursing home workers died during the pandemic

February 18, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 20.8%. 2 min read.

OSHA, the federal agency responsible for protecting workers did little to hold nursing homes accountable for dangerous conditions during the coronavirus pandemic until it was too late, its own records show.

A CNN analysis of violation data reveals that by the end of 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state worker safety programs approved by the agency had cited around 200 long-term care facilities which are currently facing roughly $2. 6 million in penalties related to Covid-19.

Hundreds of long-term care facilities were subject to worker safety complaints that were closed by the agency without any inspection -- meaning that OSHA deemed no further action was necessary.

CNN's previous reporting showed how long-term care workers had lodged complaints with OSHA since February of last year.

By the end of the year, more than 1,000 facilities where workers turned to OSHA and state programs for help were subject to only cursory inquiries, typically via phone or email, and the complaints were closed after operators denied the claims or promised to address alleged issues, according to agency data.

Concerns raised to OSHA included worker deaths and outbreaks being covered up, proper protective equipment such as N95 masks being hidden from staff, employees being forced to work while sick and learning that they were caring for Covid patients only after possible exposure.

Even as deaths mounted, with federal data showing that more than 1,000 nursing home employees died from Covid-19 last year, CNN found that OSHA had opened investigations into only a fraction of nursing homes where workers had died.

CNN previously compared state and federal death data to OSHA inspection data, revealing that the agency was physically investigating only a fraction of worker deaths in nursing homes -- in part because of the confusion over reporting requirements.

Yet all three facilities avoided citations when the agency deemed that inspections weren't necessary -- as did a New Jersey chain of long-term care facilities that has been the subject of at least three different worker complaints, which were all closed.

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