Nursing home deaths soar in Ohio

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Almost a third of all COVID-19 deaths in Ohio have come from inside long-term care facilities. According to new numbers published Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Health, 276 people have died in nursing homes and assisted living centers, which is about 29 percent of the 937 deaths reported by the state.

The actual number may be higher, as ODH’s data only dates back to April 15th, while total coronavirus deaths reported by the state date back to early March. In total, the health department database shows there are 2,126 residents and 872 employees in long-term care facilities who have coronavirus.

“The reason we are starting on April 15th is we really did not have an accurate way to tell this story before then,” said Melanie Amato from the Ohio Department of Health.

Tracking the virus inside long-term care facilities has not been easy, and the health department has taken down and re-posted the numbers.

“Local health departments did not have a mandatory reporting form or reporting style that sent this data to the state. Now they do,” Amato said.

The new system tracks current and cumulative coronavirus cases by county and long-term care facilities.

“We wanted to be as transparent as possible with this data,” Amato added.

The Ohio Health Care Association, which represents more than 900 long-term care facilities, is criticizing the new release by ODH claiming it does not paint an accurate picture.

Peter Van Runkle, the president of the organization, released the following statement:

“Unfortunately, the data seem to be plagued by errors similar to those that caused the department to take down the original version of the list two weeks ago. Our members are frustrated with the latest release because the online list continues to misinform the public about the true situation in their buildings as they fight the ongoing battle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The errors occur because the state’s website relies on data reported by 113 local health departments, which apparently do not consistently verify the numbers they are reporting.Although it is presented at the county level, these discrepancies also lead us to question the accuracy of the newly released data on deaths in facilities.
We further note that neither the death data nor the facility-level case data give members of the public information about what has happened at Ohio hospitals, aside from a statewide total.”

Peter Van Runkle, President Ohio Health Care Association

In Franklin County, the Wesley Glen Retirement Community is reporting the highest number for a long-term care facility with 73 new cases — 44 residents and 29 staff members.

“It’s a very scary time,” said Peg Carmany, CEO of the Wesley Glen Retirement Community. “My staff is scared. My residents are scared.”

The facility has had six residents die, but according to Carmany, the surge in numbers is because they are doing mass testing after partnering with the Post-Acute Rapid Results Testing (PARRT) program.

“I think there have been maybe five retirement communities that have done this,” Carmany said. “I guarantee you their numbers are all higher.”

The retirement center said it is taking every precaution it can to get residents to the other side of this outbreak, alive and well.

“My Mom lives here,” Carmany said. “I am trying to treat all the residents and family members how I want to be treated.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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