COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – The Ohio Department of Health told WDTN.com on Wednesday that 274 COVID-19 patients died at long-term care facilities prior to the state resetting its nursing home dashboard on April 15.
The state reset the nursing home dashboard’s death counts to zero in April due to reporting issues between the Ohio Department of Health and local health departments.
According to Melanie Amato, Press Secretary for ODH, the forms state and local departments used for reporting cases and deaths weren’t adequate to provide the information needed during the COVID-19 outbreak. This meant key information was often not being submitted. This required the state to restart its count on cases and deaths at nursing homes and on the ODH dashboard on its website.
“When the local health departments reported long-term care cases or deaths there wasn’t a field to put that information in (on the form),” Amato told WDTN.com. “It was just a drop-down menu, there was no standardized way or requirement on how to fill out the information. It was like ordering takeout online and they have a section for special instructions, that’s basically what the form was.”
Amato said the pre-April 15 deaths haven’t been added to the state’s totals. She said the situation with the reporting was due to the unprecedented nature of COVID-19. Since then a separate form is completed if patients have COVID-19 which requires more information.
“We never had collected that type of information no matter what the disease was,” Amato said. “It was just part of the system. We were trying to be as transparent as possible with COVID-19. It wasn’t a case of confusion, it was something we hadn’t asked local health departments to do before.”
Amato said the new form provided information that helped ODH track where possible outbreaks began.
“If there were hot spots at certain nursing homes, it was a way for us to track how it started,” Amato said. “If it was due to a patient coming back from a hospital with it or if a staff member had it, whether that staff member worked at different facilities – it gave us a better understanding of how it was going through facilties, how it was getting there and we could help provide PPE or provide staffing resources from other facilities.”
Amato said long-term facilities and health departments are in a much better situation than in March, when testing and PPE was more scarce and there were more unknowns about the virus.
“We are in a much better position,” Amato said. “We take a lot of guidance from the CDC, which is in a lot better position (as well). We continue to look at how it’s spreading, we continue to look at new guidance we can give to schools on how to provide safe environments in ways to fight the disease we couldn’t in March. I think overall we are looking at this in a much better position.”
For the latest state numbers on COVID-19, visit the ODH website.