Louisiana to change policy on identifying nursing homes with COVID cases

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Nursing Homes Continue To Fight Against the Coronavirus

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WDSU) — The Louisiana Department of Health plans to resume identifying nursing homes by name when sharing information about the coronavirus at the facilities, a spokesperson said Thursday.

Health officials initially provided this information in daily updates until April 1.

At that time, assistant state health secretary Dr. Alex Billioux said the Centers for Disease Control had recommended not identifying long-term care facilities when providing details on the number of residents and staff members who had tested positive for COVID-19. However, the CDC said that it had not provided such guidance to states.

A handful of states and some nursing home operators have continued to share identifiable data on their long-term care facilities.

A WDSU Investigates report highlighted how families have struggled to obtain information from Riverbend Nursing Home in Plaquemines Parish. Its administrator said in multiple emails to residents’ relatives that there were no COVID-19 cases at the center, although at least three residents had died and two more were hospitalized with the virus. Because their test results were obtained outside the nursing home, the administrator was technically truthful in her communication.

The official state of emergency in Louisiana requires nursing homes to report coronavirus cases to the state, but the health department confirmed to WDSU in late April that it does not share that information with nursing homes. Senior citizen advocates have expressed concern that staff members at nursing homes often work at multiple facilities, and their health and that of residents is at risk when officials aren’t transparent with COVID-19 data.

A spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health said it plans to resume identifying nursing homes as soon as May 18. Improvements in contact tracing of COVID-19 cases led to the policy change, according to the department.

By: Greg LaRose

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