Trump administration loosened rules for nursing home hiring after 1st coronavirus outbreak

Nursing home aide walks with elderly man.
(Image credit: iStock/Daisy-Daisy)

The first COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. led to a big rule change that may have just made nursing homes' coronavirus problem even worse.

After 47 residents and workers were infected with COVID-19 and 37 died, the Life Care Center outbreak in Washington made it clear nursing home practices needed to change to prevent another disaster. Instead, the Trump administration drastically reduced the requirements for becoming a caregiver, making it possible to become a qualified nurse's aide in about the same time it takes to watch an episode of Grey's Anatomy, Politico reports.

Typical requirements mandate nurse's aides go through at least 75 hours of training to be qualified for their jobs. The industry had long sought to upend that rule because it made it harder to fill critical jobs. So not long after the Kirkland outbreak, the Trump administration suspended the 75-hour requirement, and the nursing aide industry debuted a free online training program that allowed anyone to become a "temporary nurse aide." The course is supposed to take eight hours, but a Politico reporter was able to complete its final exam in 40 minutes by searching for its answers online.

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services defended the temporary nurse's aide program, saying those workers will have to do 75 hours of training once the pandemic ends. But advocates for the elderly say it only filled the caregiver industry with inexperienced workers who didn't understand cleaning and disinfecting processes, infection control, and the importance of PPE, Politico reports.

As of mid-June, nursing homes counted for an estimated 40 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. — at least 55,000 residents and workers have died of the virus so far. Read more at Politico.

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Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn is a graduate of Syracuse University, with degrees in magazine journalism and information technology, along with hours to earn another degree after working at SU's independent paper The Daily Orange. She's currently recovering from a horse addiction while living in New York City, and likes to share her extremely dry sense of humor on Twitter.