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Covering Coronavirus: The Nursing Home Tragedy

Nursing home and long-term care facilities have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, with an estimated 40% of U.S. deaths tied to these facilities. The dangers facing residents at these homes have been compounded by inadequate testing, a lack of protective equipment, and scant public health guidance, coupled with massive staffing turnover and shortages. A quarter of nursing homes didn’t have enough direct-care staff in late May, according to a Reuters analysis, and 70% didn’t meet the levels called for by experts. Many homes have also been plagued by longstanding infection-control problems. In this webinar, we’ll look at strategies for reporting on these shortcomings, which have exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis. We’ll also learn how to use a ProPublica database of 80,000 nursing home inspection reports detailing fines and infection-control lapses to pinpoint urgent stories about some of your community’s most vulnerable residents.

WHEN: June 24, 2020 at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET

REGISTER: [Now closed / view recording above]


Charles Ornstein is a deputy managing editor at ProPublica, overseeing the Local Reporting Network, which works with local news organizations to produce accountability journalism on issues of importance to their communities. From 2008 to 2017, he was a senior reporter covering health care and the pharmaceutical industry. Prior to joining ProPublica, he was a member of the metro investigative projects team at the Los Angeles Times. In 2004, he and Tracy Weber were lead authors on a series on Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, a troubled hospital in South Los Angeles. The articles won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service. In 2009, he and Weber worked on a series of stories that detailed serious failures in oversight by the California Board of Registered Nursing and nursing boards around the country. The work was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. He previously worked at the Dallas Morning News, where he covered health care on the business desk and worked in the Washington bureau. Ornstein is a past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists and an adjunct journalism professor at Columbia University. Ornstein is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

Chris Kirkham is an enterprise reporter at Reuters, where he has focused on worker safety as well as the tobacco industry and e-cigarettes. Based in Los Angeles, Chris has previously worked at The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, where he covered topics including the gambling industry, the housing market, the economy and labor issues. Chris has earned multiple awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, as part of a WSJ team that broke the news of sexual misconduct allegations involving casino executive Steve Wynn, and for coverage of the California economy and private juvenile prisons. He got his start in journalism at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, where he began a lifelong devotion to Cajun and Creole cooking. A native of Texas, Chris graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. 


Webinars are free and made possible by The California Endowment, the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation, and the Commonwealth Fund. 

Suggested resources: 

View Charles Ornstein's presentation slides here.

View Chris Kirkham's presentation slides here.

Reporting on Nursing Homes During COVID-19, tipsheet from Charles Ornstein, ProPublica 

Nursing Home Inspect, ProPublica

How Safe Are Nursing Homes Near Me? This Tool Will Help You Find Out.” By Charles Ornstein and Lena V. Groeger, ProPublica

Nursing Homes Violated Basic Health Standards, Allowing the Coronavirus to Explode,” by Charles Ornstein and Topher Sanders, ProPublica

Special Report: Pandemic exposes systemic staffing problems at U.S. nursing homes,” by Chris Kirkham and Benjamin Lesser, Reuters

How to Improve and Protect Nursing Homes From Outbreaks,” by Paula Span, The New York Times

‘They Just Dumped Him Like Trash’: Nursing Homes Evict Vulnerable Residents,” by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Amy Julia Harris, The New York Times




The Center for Health Journalism is dedicated to supporting journalists covering two of the biggest stories of our time — the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism and inequities in America. We provide reporters with intensive training instituteswebinars and tips about craft and content and are providing deep and sustained support for reporters and their newsrooms in this historic and difficult moment. You can donate through the USC web portal at this link. Pressed for time? You can also text to donate! No amount is too small; just send a text to 41-444 and type the message CHJ for further instructions.


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