Hundreds of coronavirus deaths removed from weekly nursing homes update as state changes how tally is compiled
The omissions are part of the revised way the state will report COVID-19 cases and deaths at nursing homes; the change was made “to focus on those facilities currently experiencing an outbreak,” an agency spokeswoman said.
Illinois officials are no longer including 216 deaths and 1,727 confirmed cases in their weekly reporting of coronavirus outbreaks at long-term care facilities, according to an analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The omissions are part of a revised way COVID-19 cases and deaths at nursing homes and other facilities will now be reported, officials said. A Sun-Times count of current and past numbers shows long-term care facilities now account for half of all coronavirus deaths in Illinois.
The Illinois Department of Public Health releases figures every Friday on the number of coronavirus cases and deaths reported at every long-term care facility in the state.
Starting this week, however, officials are reporting totals only at facilities that have had a new case in the past 28 days, IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said. That means figures from 74 nursing homes listed in previous weeks were not included this week.
“Our priority is to focus on those facilities currently experiencing an outbreak, and also to provide to the public the current status of COVID-19 in Illinois,” Arnold said in an emailed statement.
That method of reporting diverges from the way officials count the state’s overall case and death totals.
One nursing home excluded from this week’s data has the most reported cases in the state: Ludeman Developmental Center in Park Forest. That home’s 268 cases and six deaths are no longer listed on IDPH’s website. Neither are 104 cases and 21 deaths at Villa East in downstate Sherman, or 62 cases and 15 deaths at the Wauconda Care facility.
Asked if the new reporting method paints a less severe picture of the impact at Illinois long-term care facilities, Arnold said it does not. The department has added a section to its website it says shows all COVID-19 cases and deaths at long-term care facilities, though its tally is still lower than the Sun-Times’ count.
“It is a way to show the number of long-term care facilities in Illinois that are currently facing COVID-19 outbreaks,” Arnold said. “The number of cases continues to climb, with more than 105,000 cases in Illinois and we are constantly working to provide data in a meaningful way to meet the thousands of demands for data to be produced in a specific format. Thank you for your patience as we continue to fight this pandemic and be responsible with the data.”
Last week, officials also stopped counting “probable” nursing home cases and now report only laboratory-confirmed cases — a move that, in part, took 444 cases and 10 deaths out of last week’s state count.
“Initially, testing at long-term care facilities was not widely available. Therefore, public health included probable cases to respond appropriately to the outbreak and determine the extent of the outbreak,” Jordan Abudayyeh, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s press secretary, said in an emailed statement.
“As testing capacity has grown, more residents and staff at nursing homes are able to be tested. Including laboratory confirmed cases only for long-term care outbreak reporting now provides a more accurate picture of the size of an outbreak.”