Louisiana tweaks reporting of nursing home COVID-19 cases

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has adjusted its reporting of coronavirus cases found in the state’s nursing homes by adding details about the number of cases that originated at each facility to account for transfers into nursing homes with specialized care for virus patients.

Health officials said the additional statistics paints a more accurate picture of outbreaks in centers housing Louisianans who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Families with loved ones in nursing homes have been alarmed when facilities report high numbers of coronavirus cases each week, The Advocate reported. But in some cases, the numbers could be misleading, because some nursing homes have set up COVID-19 isolation wards and took in patients from hospitals or other nursing homes.

The previous reporting system could raise worries about lax infection-control practices when instead they simply had been admitting and treating COVID-positive patients from other nursing homes, hospitals or elsewhere, said Dr. Joseph Kanter, the interim assistant secretary of public health at the Louisiana Department of Health.

“A lot of them have been good stewards,” Kanter said.

The Care Center in Baton Rouge, for example, lists 66 coronavirus cases among residents, according to the 145-bed facility’s latest report with the state. But fewer than half those cases were contracted at the nursing home, according to the latest weekly report released Wednesday.

At Booker T. Washington Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in Caddo Parish — which leads the state in most COVID-19 cases among residents at 219 — only about 55 were contracted at the facility.

Nursing homes are required to report weekly the number of cases to the state and federal government. The state’s Health department began releasing weekly lists of cases in individual nursing homes in May, after weeks of only offering total numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths statewide.

Louisiana, like other states, has seen the virus outbreak ravage nursing homes and other elderly care facilities. Of the 5,700 deaths linked to the coronavirus in Louisiana, about 43% were residents of the state’s nursing homes, according to the latest state data available Wednesday.

New coronavirus cases, both in nursing homes and across Louisiana more broadly, have plateaued in recent weeks following a surge of infections this summer. That trend has also mirrored infections within nursing home and other inpatient care facilities in the state.

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