ROANOKE — Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday released the names of nursing homes and assisted living facilities where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred and claimed the lives of 1,000 Virginians.
Their deaths represent 62.4% of Virginia’s 1,602 fatalities from the coronavirus.
Until now, the governor has said state code grants the homes the same health privacy rights as people. He did not explain the reversal in policy.
"Due to the widespread nature of this pandemic, it is now unlikely that releasing facility information would compromise anonymity or discourage facilities from participating in a public health investigation," he said in a news release.
The website, which is not on the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, lists the facilities by name, type, status of the outbreak and when the Health Department was notified, along with the number of cases and deaths.
Five facilities in the Thomas Jefferson Health District are listed as outbreaks in progress or outbreaks pending closure.
Northam also said recently that data on the nursing homes released by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “has also been inconsistent, creating public confusion.”
Northam has rarely talked about the toll of the illness on residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and group homes. He appointed a task force in April.
Northam also said the state is issuing new guidelines and testing requirements for reopening the facilities for families to visit, and he outlined how Virginia will spend $246 million in federal funds to support the facilities.
Virginia will follow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ reopening criteria and require nursing homes to conduct baseline testing of all staff and residents during the first phase of reopening.
He said the point prevalence surveys will be completed by July 15. As of June 14, the Health Department, with assistance from the National Guard, had completed 60 of the 154 requests for point prevalence studies by long-term care facilities. Three-quarters of the requests are for nursing homes.
The Health Department on Friday reported that 1,000 of the state’s 1,602 COVID-19 deaths are linked to outbreaks in long-term care.
The department revised the long-term death fatality count upward by 55 on Friday, although the overall count of deaths rose by 16. On Thursday, the long-term care fatality count rose by 40, while overall deaths went up by only three.
Spokeswoman Julie Grimes said in an email, “Local health officials are continually working to ensure COVID-19 case and outbreak investigations are complete as possible."
The investigations have led to previously reported cases and deaths, which were part of the statewide totals, being assigned to outbreaks in Virginia’s surveillance system, which is then reflected on the website’s dashboard.
Deaths of residents and staff of long-term care now account for 62.4% of Virginians who have died from the virus.
Information about long-term care facilities that have had COVID-19 outbreaks can be found at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/health-professionals/virginia-long-term-care-task-force/.