Jacob Myers The Columbus Dispatch

Tuesday

May 19, 2020 at 7:36 PM
May 20, 2020 at 2:16 PM

As the federal government urges governors to conduct coronavirus testing on all residents in nursing homes and congregate care, new data from the Ohio Department of Health shows that three out of five coronavirus deaths statewide have come from such long-term care facilities.

Before April 15 — when the state health department began compiling data on cases and deaths in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and other skilled nursing facilities — there were 369 confirmed or probable deaths attributed to those facilities.

Including the deaths the health department has reported since April 15, health department spokeswoman Melanie Amato said there have been 1,031 deaths in long-term care facilities, which comprise 59.9% of Ohio’s 1,720 coronavirus deaths as of Tuesday.

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The health department is expected to update the number of cases and deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities Wednesday at 2 p.m. at coronavirus.ohio.gov.

With the new number of total deaths Wednesday, the percentage of deaths in these facilities will likely be greater than 60%.

The health department’s database currently shows 1,864 active resident cases and 786 active employee cases in long-term care facilities.

Advocates for nursing home providers and residents across the country have been demanding universal testing in long-term care facilities in order to identify asymptomatic carriers who might be spreading the virus unknowingly.

Residents of these facilities are among the two most vulnerable groups of people when it comes to potentially dying from the coronavirus: the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

A Dispatch analysis of the state’s coronavirus data found that of the 2,136 coronavirus cases among those age 80 or older through Monday, a total of 865 of those infected — 40.5% — have died. Slightly more than half of all statewide deaths are from that age group.

As of the end of April, The Dispatch reported the Wesley Glen Retirement Community has reported the most cases for a long-term-care facility in Franklin County. Officials for the retirement community said 44 residents had tested positive for coronavirus. Six residents had died. Though testing was not complete at that time., 29 of its 256 employees had tested positive for COVID-19, though those 29 were not showing symptoms.

The Laurels of Gahanna Nursing Home had reported as of April 29 that it had 21 new cases for residents and 14 for employees in the prior week. The Laurels of Worthington Nursing Home also then reported 20 new COVID-19 cases for residents and 11 staff members in the prior week.

Gov. Mike DeWine has yet to commit to 100% testing in nursing homes and other congregate settings where the elderly live, citing a lack of tests. DeWine said while he’d like to test everyone in Ohio’s long-term care facilities, the state has to be strategic in deploying tests.

“We’re going to test nursing homes as much as we have the capability of doing,” he said Monday. “I’m not satisfied with where we are. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”

On Tuesday, DeWine said he will have details in the next few days on the state’s plan to use the Ohio National Guard to scale up testing in nursing homes

Ohio has tested a little less than 2.5% of its nearly 11.7 million people. Last week, from May 11 through May 17, Ohio averaged 8,632 daily tests.

“I think in these next seven days we’re going to be able to report to you a lot more progress in that area and we’re going to continue to do that,.” DeWine said.

jmyers@dispatch.com

@_jcmyers

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