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Senate pushes for COVID-19 transparency at Va. nursing homes, schools

Posted at 12:54 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 12:54:57-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- In the second day of the special General Assembly session, the Senate Committee met to consider several bills on health and education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senators voted to combine three different bills (SB: 5026, 5150, 5081) into one bill, requiring the Department of Health to make information about outbreaks at nursing homes or any facility operated by any agency of the Commonwealth, school, or summer camp, available to the public.

Senators passed the bill unanimously.

It required that information include the name of the place where the outbreak happened, the number of confirmed cases, and deaths reported.

Senator Stephen Newman (R - Forest) introduced Senate Bill 5026, saying the state saw a need for more transparency early on.

"We sit here today and 90 percent, 90 percent of all deaths have been by seniors of COVID-19. The majority of those deaths have been at long term care facilities. The most vulnerable population, about 60 percent of the deaths have been at those facilities," said Newman. "Madam Chair, I think we found early on there’s a code problem as it related to reporting of cases in nursing homes."

Aimee Siebert spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of the Virginia Press Association.

"We think it’s critically important to public health for everybody to know where those outbreaks occur, and as Senator Newman said, we do believe the code has been very confusing on this and it needs to be clarified," said Siebert.

Senators also passed SB. 5004, requiring a registered nurse in every school building in the Commonwealth.

Lawmakers voted to report this bill but re-referred it to Senate Finance and Appropriations to work through it financially.