KANSAS CITY – New federal rules announced Sunday night address the pleas of families for more transparency after thousands of nursing home residents with COVID-19 have died nationwide.


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it will now require facilities to notify residents and their families of cases inside the nursing homes. That notification must occur within 12 hours of a confirmed case or within 72 hours of three or more residents and staff with a new "onset of respiratory symptoms," according to the CMS.


Facilities will also be required to report cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, state and local health departments must be notified, but it's been up to the facilities on whether they report cases to the CDC.


Failure to report or to notify residents and their families or representatives in the time specified could result in an enforcement action against the nursing facility, the new CMS rules state.


The issue of transparency and notification has erupted across the nation, including in the Kansas City area after a coronavirus outbreak inside Riverbend Post Acute Rehabilitation. As of Friday, 19 residents had died and 116 cases — 92 residents and 24 employees — were linked to the nursing home in Kansas City, Kansas.


Several families with loved ones at the facility have said they didn't learn of the outbreak from Riverbend, but from their relatives living there. Others told The Star they found out through media reports.


One resident — who wasn't tested at the facility —was released early from Riverbend on April 3. His family said no one at the facility told them about the outbreak or gave them precautions they should take. Two days later, the 88-year-old man died at his home. His son and daughter-in-law now have COVID-19.


Mitzi McFatrich, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, said that the new notification requirements are a welcome change. But the new rules don't address concerns about public transparency, McFatrich said.


People who are needing to find a facility for a loved one should know where the outbreaks are and what facilities are dealing with the virus, she said.


"This information is imperative as choices are made regarding a stay — short or long term in a nursing facility," McFatrich told The Star in an email Monday morning. "... At KABC we still field those inquiries from elders needing rehab placement after a hospitalization (non-covid related) or for long-term care.


"Without public reporting in a centralized place those elders or families continue to fly blind as they select a care facility. "


Officials with the Johnson County Department for Health and Environment, will not provide a list of facilities that have reported COVID-19 cases and deaths. The director told The Star it was a matter of privacy.