Association Between CMS Quality Ratings and COVID-19 Outbreaks in Nursing Homes - West Virginia, March 17-June 11, 2020

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Sep 18;69(37):1300-1304. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6937a5.


Nursing homes are high-risk settings for outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (1,2). During the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. health departments worked to improve infection prevention and control (IPC) practices in nursing homes to prevent outbreaks and limit the spread of COVID-19 in affected facilities; however, limited resources have hampered health departments' ability to rapidly provide IPC support to all nursing homes within their jurisdictions. Since 2008, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has published health inspection results and quality ratings based on their Five-Star Quality Rating System for all CMS-certified nursing homes (3); these ratings might be associated with facility-level risk factors for COVID-19 outbreaks. On April 17, 2020, West Virginia became the first state to mandate and conduct COVID-19 testing for all nursing home residents and staff members to identify and reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in these settings (4). West Virginia's census of nursing home outbreaks was used to examine associations between CMS star ratings and COVID-19 outbreaks. Outbreaks, defined as two or more cases within 14 days (with at least one resident case), were identified in 14 (11%) of 123 nursing homes. Compared with 1-star-rated (lowest rated) nursing homes, the odds of a COVID-19 outbreak were 87% lower among 2- to 3-star-rated facilities (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 0.13, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.03-0.54) and 94% lower among 4- to 5-star-rated facilities (aOR = 0.06, 95% CI = 0.006-0.39). Health departments could use star ratings to help identify priority nursing homes in their jurisdictions to inform the allocation of IPC resources. Efforts to mitigate outbreaks in high-risk nursing homes are necessary to reduce overall COVID-19 mortality and associated disparities. Moreover, such efforts should incorporate activities to improve the overall quality of life and care of nursing home residents and staff members and address the social and health inequities that have been recognized as a prominent feature of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States (5).

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • COVID-19
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S.
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Nursing Homes / standards
  • Nursing Homes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Quality of Health Care / standards*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • United States / epidemiology
  • West Virginia / epidemiology