Carers have expressed their alarm at being told to prepare for another wave of coronavirus patients to be discharged from hospitals into care homes within days.
An email leaked to ITV News reveals how one council has asked care homes to state by noon tomorrow whether or not they are ready to accept infected residents.
An official at Middlesbrough Council states: "It is likely in the coming days and weeks that we will see residents leaving hospital that are Covid-19 positive.
"If any homes are not able to accept residents with a positive result and isolate appropriately, will you please let [us] know...by 12 noon 18/09/2020."
ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand says the email has sparked deep fears about the potential for a second wave
Several carers have expressed their disbelief at the news, given the disastrous way patients with Covid-19 were discharged into homes during the first wave of the virus.
While all new residents arriving from hospital are now routinely tested for Covid-19 and their result is declared to the home, one care manager who received the email asked: "Are they looking to spread the virus into homes again?"
Another told ITV News: "Reading between the lines the email is saying if you don't play ball and accept these patients you will be out in the cold."
Care homes have expertise in containing infections and some willingly accept Covid-19 patients, isolating them in separate wings of their homes.
But when 15,000 residents have already died in care with Covid-19 in England alone, many are nervous about the risk of a second wave.
On Friday, the government will announce a new winter plan for the care sector in England, including an extra £546 million to help with infection control.
In May, ITV News revealed how thousands of care home beds were block-booked at the outset of the pandemic to take patients from hospital, in an effort to create capacity in the NHS.
But discharged patients weren't routinely tested before entering care homes until April, with carers claiming that the failure unwittingly spread the virus.
Last week ITV News revealed that care homes across much of North East England have been told to lock down again, with a reimposed ban on visits as cases of the virus begin to surge.
Care homes have also complained of delayed test results, as they desperately try to prevent the virus from spreading.
With many homes still deeply traumatised by the first wave of Covid-19, today's leaked email will fill many with further dread about a potential second spike.
A Department for Health spokesperson said: "No care home will be forced to admit an existing or new resident to the care home if they do not feel they can provide the appropriate care."
ITV News has approached Middlesbrough Council for comment.