INDIANAPOLIS — For months, as nursing homes across Indiana struggled to control the spread of COVID-19, the real toll of the pandemic was kept secret. State leaders refused to release data showing the number of cases and deaths inside each facility.
Following pressure from AARP, state lawmakers, 13News and other media outlets, the Indiana State Department of Health has now released the information.
“Of the 756 facilities who we asked to submit data, 630 or 83 percent have done so,” said Dr. Daniel Rusyniak, chief medical officer for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. “This is a mandate and as such they are required to do so or will face potential penalties.”
The data, submitted by long-term care facilities directly to the ISDH, confirmed which nursing homes across the state have been hit hardest by COVID-19. Several of those nursing homes are in central Indiana:
- Greenwood Healthcare Center -192 COVID cases and 31 deaths
- Wildwood Healthcare Center, Indianapolis - 173 COVID cases and 19 deaths
- Greenwood Meadows - 113 COVID cases and 35 deaths
- Bethany Pointe, Anderson – 83 COVID cases and 33 deaths
- Harrison Terrace, Indianapolis – 71 COVID cases and 38 deaths
The state's newly released data not only reports cases among nursing home residents but also details the number of positive cases among staff members. Northwest Manor in Indianapolis, for example, reported 41 workers who tested positive for COVID-19.
The overall data shows 5867 long-term care residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 1, and 1,390 of those residents died. That represents 53 percent of the state’s total deaths from the coronavirus. Nursing homes have reported 2,521 coronavirus infections and 12 total deaths among staff. ISDH has decided not to report actual numbers for facilities reporting five or fewer infections.
While the aggregate data is useful – statewide nursing home COVID-19 totals have reported weekly by ISDH for several months – it is the facility-specific data that health care advocates and families have been eager to see since the pandemic began. In addition to learning which nursing homes have reported a high numbers of cases (132 Indiana facilities report at least 10 residents who tested positive for COVID-19), families also want to know which nursing homes have no reported cases. According to the ISDH data, there are many of those, too.
“For families it's important because we have folks who are making very important decisions about where to put a loved one, and this will help inform them and help them make a better decision,” said Sara Waddle, who serves as the Indiana state director of AARP. “I know we would have preferred to have the info sooner, but we're glad that it's out there now.”
She believes the data will serve a crucial role in helping determine COVID-19 policy moving forward.
“This is a good thing that we are taking a deeper dive into this information and making sure we have the most accurate picture, and let's see what kind of story this tells us and what we can learn from it,” she said. “I hope the data is really looked at to see what we can learn in terms of what are facilities doing right and what can we learn from those, and it will be interesting to see if the outbreak in the nursing homes correlates with what’s going on in the bigger picture so we are able to tell if the nursing homes can be an indicator of what is happening in the community.”
The state health department said it will update the data weekly, and it plans to present the data in a more user-friendly format within the next three weeks. In the meantime, 13News has organized the nursing home information in a searchable database so it can be searched by specific nursing home.