About 22 percent of COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes in Indiana were not represented in the state’s datasets until the reporting system was revised this month, according to a July 28 IndyStar report.
The updated reporting numbers, which began July 22, show that 356 coronavirus-related deaths and 789 positive cases in facilities including nursing homes and assisted living communities were previously unreported by the state. Since April 8, nursing homes have been required to notify Indiana’s state health department of case and death counts within 24 hours of detection, but state officials have previously declined to release the number of cases and deaths at specific nursing homes, most of which are government-owned, according to the report.
In July, the state said it would walk back its policy and begin releasing the nursing home data, but “questions had been raised about the quality of the state’s aggregate long-term care counts, which it began releasing in May,” the publication reports. CMS released federal data in May that indicated Indiana could have been undercounting long-term care deaths by 200.
When asked about the undercount, an Indiana State Department of Health spokesperson told IndyStar that the previous data went back to early April, which is when the state’s health commissioner ordered all long-term care facilities to start reporting cases and deaths. The new data, however, includes cases and deaths beginning back to March 1.
“All of the cases submitted must be verified and cross-checked against data from our labs and Vital Records Division, so all long-term care data posted on the new webpage should be considered preliminary,” the spokesperson said.
Indiana state officials began releasing facility level data on July 22, which, at the time, showed more than 100 previously uncounted nursing home deaths. Family and Social Services Administration CMO Dan Rusyniak, MD, said the difference in total is due to improvements in data reporting such as better instructions and more time for facilities to identify historical cases.
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