By Carol Vaughn —
Virginia will now report COVID-19 cases and outbreak status by facility name for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Gov. Ralph Northam in a press release Friday announced he has directed the Virginia Health Department to release the names of individual long-term care facilities that have experienced a COVID-19 outbreak.
Until now, health department data released to the public did not specify which facilities were experiencing outbreaks or how many residents had tested positive.
According to Virginia Health Department data, as of Friday, June 19, two long-term care facilities on the Eastern Shore have had outbreaks.
Shore Healthcare and Rehab Center in Parksley has an outbreak in progress, according to the database, which says the Virginia Health Department was notified May 4.
The nursing home has reported 11 cases and 0 deaths.
Heritage Hall in Nassawadox reported an outbreak April 22 and has had 114 cases and 17 deaths, according to the database.
The outbreak there is listed as “pending closure,” which means 28 days have passed without a documented new case and the outbreak has not yet been closed in the Virginia Outbreak Surveillance System.
The numbers reported for outbreaks include both residents and staff, according to the health department website.
Commonwealth Senior Living in Onancock is not listed as reporting an outbreak.
An outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases of illness with onset dates within one incubation period, 14 days.
Northam also announced guidelines and testing requirements for reopening long-term care facilities and outlined how Virginia will disburse $246 million, mainly from the federal CARES Act, to support those facilities’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The lockdowns of long-term care facilities to protect residents and staff from the spread of COVID-19 have been hard on residents and their families,” Northam said, adding, “These actions will help support long-term care facilities as they ease those restrictions, while keeping their residents safe and ensuring that the public gets accurate information on the spread of this virus in these facilities.”
The $246 million will go to support nursing homes and assisted living facilities in addressing staffing shortages, increasing infection control measures, and purchasing personal protective equipment, as well as complying with new testing requirements.
The majority will go to nursing facilities, which receive Medicaid payments.
More than $56 million is provided for periodic testing of nursing home residents and staff.
Assisted living facilities will receive $20 million, nearly doubling state funding for these facilities, “in recognition that these facilities are also experiencing additional costs and have not had the federal support that nursing facilities have received,” according to the release.
The Virginia Health Department’s goal is to complete baseline testing of all Virginia nursing homes by July 15.
The health department previously declined to release the names of long-term care facilities with outbreaks, citing a responsibility under state law to protect patient and facility anonymity.
“However, 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,” according to the release.
Recently released data about nursing home illnesses from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “has also been inconsistent, creating public confusion,” the release said.