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Nursing Home Group Supports Decision To Disclose COVID-19 Deaths By County

A sign at the Mill Run nursing home in Hilliard.
Ryan Hitchcock
A sign at the Mill Run nursing home in Hilliard.

Ohio's nursing home lobby supports Gov. Mike DeWine's decision to shield some information regarding COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities, including death rates.

The Ohio Department of Health posted data about COVID-19 cases in the state’s nursing homes Wednesday, the second time it had done so.

After initially posting the data on April 15, the state took it down just two days later. That’s because the Ohio Health Care Association and some nursing home facilities complained about the data’s presentation. Now, the state reports the facility's name, type, and number of cases among residents and staff.

As of Thursday, Ohio reports 1,199 cases of COVID-19 among nursing home residents, and 477 among staff.

Next week, the state plans to release nursing home deaths by county, but without naming which facility they occurred at.

Ohio Health Care Association director Pete Van Runkel says that’s a happy medium.

“I think our members tend to think, ‘Jeez, you know, I really, it’s really uncomfortable to have that out there.’ But we think as an organization that transparency is important,” Van Runkel says. “So if the governor’s position had been we’re gonna do it by facility, we would have been OK with that too.”

Van Runkel says nursing homes should not be pointed out individually because COVID-19 has a high mortality rate among the elderly, and exposure to the novel coronavirus can happen through nursing home staff.

“Whether a particular building ends up getting infections has as much to do with who did their staff members associate with when they were out in the community," he says. "Because most of the cases start from an employee or a contract person who came in."

The association says it's in regular discussions with the DeWine administration regarding COVID-19 policy in nursing homes, but does not know what policies will be enacted until the Department of Health makes it official.