June 4, 2020

Federal Report Finds 21% More COVID Nursing Home Deaths In Indiana

The Bethany Pointe Health Campus is seen, Saturday, April 11, 2020, in Anderson. - AP Photo/Darron Cummings

The Bethany Pointe Health Campus is seen, Saturday, April 11, 2020, in Anderson.

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana health leaders said they were working Wednesday to determine why a federal report found about 200 more coronavirus-related deaths among the state’s nursing home residents than state officials had tallied.

A report released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday listed 1,141 total COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents as of May 24. That number is 196, or 21 percent, more than the 945 such deaths reported this week by the Indiana State Department of Health.

State officials suspect the difference stems from Indiana nursing homes only being asked once in early April for a total number of previous COVID-19 deaths and infections, while they have since been required to report new cases within 24 hours, said Dr. Dan Rusyniak, chief medical officer for the state Family and Social Services Administration.

Nursing home administrators have known about the federal survey for more than a month, he said.

“Facilities have likely had a lot more time to go back and accurately account and report these cases,” Rusyniak said.

The partial numbers in the federal report are certain to go higher, as information from only about half of Indiana nursing homes was included.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and state health officials have stopped identifying nursing homes with outbreaks, despite complaints from relatives of home residents about a lack of communication about illnesses and deaths. State officials maintain those facilities face federal and state requirements to notify the families about their COVID-19 status.

Rusyniak said he believed the addition nearly 200 nursing homes deaths were already included in the state’s total of 2,207 confirmed or presumed infection-related fatalities. The federal report figures would mean 52 percent of Indiana’s COVID-19 deaths involved nursing home residents.

State officials are working on guidance allowing nursing homes to permit outdoor visits by residents with family members and friends, Rusyniak said.

That relaxing of a ban on nursing home visitors will come as the state aims to have all facility staff members tested for the coronavirus by the end of June. Rusyniak said such tests will identify employees who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms and help prevent additional nursing home outbreaks.

Testing of residents won’t be required but reserved for instances where they might have faced coronavirus exposure, he said.

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