After Pressure From Newspaper, Idaho Releases COVID-19 Data On Nursing Homes
Almost three months since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Idaho, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has started sharing the names of long-term care facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks.
After the department rejected a public records request filed by The Idaho Statesman to access data on nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the paper threatened to sue over the state’s refusal. In response, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare on Friday released the names of facilities that have seen coronavirus outbreaks, and where there have been deaths due to COVID-19.
The newly public information shows 52 of the state's 83 total deaths due to COVID-19 — or 60% — are associated with nine long-term care facilities, and 289 cases are residents or staff at 25 care facilities.
Many of the cases and deaths in long-term care facilities occurred in the Magic Valley. One hundred and twenty-two cases were confirmed in Twin Falls County care centers. All 23 people who died due to COVID-19 in the county were associated with three care centers.
Life Care Center of Lewiston has had 54 staff or residents test positive for coronavirus and 18 people associated with the center die due to COVID-19 — the most cases and deaths associated with any one facility.
“The information that is on that report, we should be getting from the facility at the time it is happening," said Catherine Voss of Ariz., whose mother died of COVID-19 in the Life Care Center of Lewiston in April.
Voss spoke with Boise State Public Radio about her mother's death and her own push for more transparency from the center. Staff there alerted her of the first positive case in mid- to late-March, but she wasn't updated on how quickly the virus was spreading in the facility. She said she became more aware of the situation after reports in the Lewiston Tribune, but that families shouldn't have to learn about the safety of their loved ones that way.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare had been resistant to sharing the names of long-term care facilities with COVID-19 cases, citing three laws and rules to the Idaho Statesman's request that center around maintaining confidentiality and safety of residents.
Now the state plans to release updated counts each week.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
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