Nursing home operators are concerned about admitting people who haven't received a negative coronavirus test result.
Nursing home workers visit the state Capitol to call for a better federal and state response to the COVID outbreak. Photo courtesy of SEIU 1199

The number of elderly and disabled nursing home residents who died after contracting COVID-19 doubled over a 10-day period – reaching 768 by April 22– state data released Friday evening shows.

This means fatalities of nursing home residents now represent 50% of all COVID-19-related deaths in Connecticut.

The new report ends a week of intense speculation among state officials and health care professionals, some of whom questioned whether earlier state assessments grossly underestimated the pandemic’s spread among the state’s nursing homes.

Gov. Ned Lamont said during his press conference Friday afternoon he is confident the nursing homes are getting the protective equipment they need to slow the spread of the disease.

“I think we’re doing well on that compared to what I’ve seen in other places,” Lamont said, adding, “… and now we’re going to be giving them even more gear starting on May 1.”

The nursing home data was released the same day the head of Connecticut’s largest health care worker’s union charged the Lamont administration with putting residents and workers at nursing homes at risk by conducting insufficient inspections at nursing homes, dispersing Medicaid rate increases that favor rural and suburban facilities over urban centers , and failing to provide enough personal protective equipment for nursing home staff.

“The epicenter truly is in our nursing homes,” said SEIU Healthcare 1199 President Rob Baril, adding the situation is “absolutely cratering. It’s collapsing.”

The data released Friday night shows a system in distress. More than half of the residential facilities have had at least one resident die after becoming infected. In one out of every 10 nursing homes, at least 10% of the residents have died.

It could get worse before it gets better.

During the same 10-day period, the number of residents who have contracted the virus doubled – spiking from 1,713 to 3,423 people.

Nearly two-thirds of Connecticut’s nursing homes now have at least one resident with COVID, an analysis of the data by the CT Mirror show. Last week, just over half of Connecticut’s 213 nursing homes had someone who has tested positive for the virus.

In one-in-four nursing homes, at least 25% of the residents have COVID.

Statewide, roughly one out of every 12 residents has tested positive for the disease, and one out of every 53 has died.

The leader of the association that represents the nursing homes said Friday night they are doing everything they can to stop the highly contagious virus.

“The spread of COVID-19 within Connecticut nursing homes is a reflection of the pernicious character of the virus and is in no way a reflection of the quality of the nursing home or the care it provides,” said Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, the state’s largest nursing home association. “ … The data continues to tell us that nursing home operators and employees who are doing all the right things are seeing firsthand how highly contagious and insidious the virus is for the residents they serve.”

See below to look up a specific nursing home’s data.

The first round of data released April 16 showed that deaths in the state’s nursing homes from COVID accounted for closer to one-third of the cases.

State health officials confirmed Monday that more than half of all coronavirus-related deaths in Connecticut involve nursing home residents — despite very recent projections that it had been closer to one-third.

But the CT Mirror showed Lamont and state health officials reported last week that 375 nursing home residents had died from the coronavirus as of Tuesday, April 14 actually represented almost 56% of all deaths statewide from the infectious disease.

That report stunned many, partly because the nursing home share of the overall death total had risen much more slowly, from 29% to 35%, between April 7-13.

The Lamont administration now is asking local health officials to recognize the coronavirus as the cause of death, regardless of the presence of a positive test, if other evidence, such as severe respiratory symptoms, are present.

The new report issued Friday breaks down the 768 deaths among nursing home residents into two categories: 568 who were “laboratory confirmed” COVID-19 positive, and 200 for whom the coronavirus was the “probable” cause.

Lamont’s chief operating officer, Josh Geballe, initially reported Friday that the updated nursing home fatality count represented 43% of the coronavirus death toll statewide. But while the nursing home data was released Friday, it only was current through Wednesday at 2 p.m. Comparing deaths among nursing home residents as of Wednesday with statewide deaths through Wednesday yields a ratio of 50%.

Increased focus on nursing home deaths also prompted calls this week from two state legislative leaders, as well as from Connecticut’s largest healthcare workers union, for more state funding for masks, gloves, disposable gowns and other protective gear for workers at these facilities.

“The data must be used to inform and prioritize the delivery of resources to nursing home providers in need of PPE [personal protective equipment] and testing supplies — particularly as nursing homes statewide have assumed increased responsibilities in caring for COVID-19 patients,” Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut, the coalition representing nonprofit nursing homes, said after Friday’s report was released.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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