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Nursing home data bringing clarity to families and advocates

Posted at 9:03 PM, May 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 01:03:04-04

Newly released data on COVID-19 cases shows the impacts on nursing homes. The release is a first in 6 weeks. Initially, the state named nursing homes with clusters of the virus. However they stopped publicly naming those locations.

The data released on Monday shows the facility with the highest death toll in the state is a nursing home in St. Landry Parish.

J. Michael Morrow Memorial Nursing Home in Arnaudville reported 68 resident cases, 34 deaths , and 29 staff cases. Across the state, nursing home patients account for at least 35 percent of the fatalities from COVID-19.

The data is giving clarity to some families. "This is what people have been crying to me about with this issue," advocate for nursing home residents Brian Lee said.

Lee is the executive director of Families for Better Care. The non profit has been working to improve living conditions for nursing home across the nation.

"We had some people whose loved ones died and they didn't know it. It's sad, but I think this gives a glimmer of hope that states are doing something better and more effective to be honest with us." He added, "We've been pushing for honesty and transparency from the beginning."

Lee says the newly released data is a step in the right direction. "It is the right thing and moral thing to do and people deserve this information . "

Doctor Tina Stefanski with the Louisiana Department of Health says more testing will be done in facilities on a weekly basis. Health officials are pushing for everyone inside a facility to be tested. Even testing those who have no symptoms or had prior negative results.

"What's led us to this point is the role of asymptomatic spread of infection." Stefanski said. "We know there's a great proportion of individuals who showed no symptoms who can spread the infection. You can imagine in a condition like nursing home it makes it very difficult to control spread."

She added, "the recommendation now is that you test or screen asymptomatic individuals . So now we're working with facilities to test everyone in their nursing homes. When you see a nursing home with a lot of cases, a good chance is many individuals are asymptomatic."

According to LDH, there has been an increase in cases in Acadiana . While some facilities are reporting zero cases, Stefanski says with more testing that number can change. "You're going to probably see numbers increase," Stefanski said.

Meanwhile, Lee says an increase of testing and data being released will bring some change to those who are most vulnerable to the virus.

"It helps them make decisions on what they should do next. Plus it helps improve communication between nursing home and family members where these clusters are happening," Lee said.

Some good news coming from the newly released statistics. As of Monday night, 19 Acadiana nursing homes are reporting no coronavirus cases among their patients or their staff members.

That includes all of the nursing homes in Jeff Davis and Vermilion Parishes.

Some nursing homes in the region still have data pending.

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