COVID-19 cases, deaths in Indiana nursing homes higher than previously reported

The number of positive COVID-19 cases and related deaths in long-term-care facilities throughout Indiana is higher than previously reported, state officials announced Wednesday.

Dan Rusyniak, chief medical officer for Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, said during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s press briefing that the data the state has been compiling from nursing homes for a new public dashboard has shown more positive cases and deaths in residents and staff than previously known.

Rusyniak announced on July 1 that the state was reversing course on prior policy and would provide facility-specific COVID-19 nursing home data.

As part of that process, all long-term-care facilities were supposed to submit data to the state that detailed the number of positive cases and deaths in staff members and residents from the beginning of the pandemic. That data was due to the state July 14.

Rusyniak said 83% of facilities have complied so far, and state officials are working with the remaining facilities to obtain the information.

But with the data already received, the state found there were 1,390 COVID-19-related deaths of residents in nursing homes from March 1 through July 14. That’s 128 more deaths than currently shown on the state’s public coronavirus website and represents 53% of the state’s total number of deaths.

The total number of positive cases among residents is also higher than what’s currently shown on the state’s website—5,867 positive cases through July 14 as opposed to 5,833 through July 20.

“Now, the reason these numbers are different is that facilities have gotten better at reporting, and we’ve gotten better at collecting the data,” Rusyniak said. “We’ve also made it easier for facilities by giving them better instructions and more time to go back and identify cases.”

Rusyniak also shared data on nursing home staff, which has not been previously posted on the state website. There have been 2,521 positive cases and 12 deaths among staff.

Rusyniak said data that breaks out the positive cases and deaths for each facility should become public later today, but the easy-to-search public dashboard is not expected to be available for another three weeks.

The facility-specific data on staff deaths will not be made public for privacy reasons, because there are too few staff deaths, Rusyniak said.

The state had previously refused to provide facility-specific information when asked by the media but allowed those facilities and local health departments to release their own numbers, if they chose to do so. Instead, the state has been releasing collective numbers for all facilities on a weekly basis.

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