ODH releases nursing home COVID-19 numbers

Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 5:19 PM EDT
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The Ohio Department of Health finally released numbers of COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities in the state Wednesday, but the numbers come with a catch.

According to the data from ODH, there are 781 total cases between residents and staff members at these facilities. But here is the issue, the data released is only for a handful of counties throughout Ohio.

So it begs the question, are counties required to report the information? For weeks 13abc has been communicating with families that have loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state. Without visitors allowed inside, the biggest concern is, what is happening behind closed doors?

The Ohio Department of Health said the numbers in the data that was just released to the public only reflects current cases of COVID-19. The figures are only tracking cases from April 15th and beyond.

"If patients or staff had COVID-19 back in February or March and have since recovered, passed away, have left the facility or are hospitalized then they are not included in the numbers that are posted," a spokesperson with ODH said.

Many families are telling 13abc there are plenty of confirmed cases. In fact, we spoke with at least one family, who has a family member inside the Mennonite Memorial Home in Bluffton, that has tested positive for COVID-19.

The biggest concern for these families is making sure every procedure and protocol is being followed to keep patients safe.

"They're in such a vulnerable state and it's our duty to protect them," Laura Koneval said.

Koneval's grandmother is 98-years old and has the virus. Koneval is not placing blame but wants to make sure families are made aware what is happening.

Meanwhile, in Holland, Mark Itil's mother is in the Spring Meadow Care Center. He said the facility is also dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 and is giving accolades to the administrator for keeping each family informed.

Itil said the facility has its first case in early April. Families were contacted right away, and the administrator called everyone to secure testing for all residents.

Itil is now calling on county, state and federal leaders to take action and make sure these facilities, filled with the virus-vulnerable population, have access to COVID-19 tests.

"There are steps they can take to protect residents, but this should've been done three, four weeks ago," Itil said.

As for numbers in Lucas County, 13abc has reached out to local leaders within the health department repeatedly for an answer. The question Wednesday was met with an answer that puts the blame back on the nursing homes.

"They're not used to a lot of the reporting like hospitals are and the systems aren't in place for a lot of this," said Lucas County Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski.

As of 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Toledo Lucas County Health Department released COVID-19 data on nursing homes that they provided to the state, including a list of 24 facilities throughout the county. Out of those 24 TLCHD is reporting there are a total of 212 residents with positive cases of COVID-19 currently and 68 staff members.

The Ohio Department of Health said there is a new system in place, and it's a first for local health departments so it is "taking some time to learn the new reporting style and to make sure we [ODH] have accurate information."

According to ODH, "If a facility is not listed then they may not have any current cases or the local health department data reported to the state is not complete. Once the data is verified, we will update the website accordingly."