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Newly-released data shows where and when COVID-19 swept through Indiana nursing homes

The governor and state health commissioner finally made good on a promise to be fully transparent about coronavirus inside Hoosier nursing homes.

INDIANAPOLIS — When Daugh Hubbard caught COVID-19 four months ago, his family was desperate for information about what was going on inside his Greenwood nursing home.

"It is so heartbreaking to be outside a window and you can't do anything to help," said Barbara Arteaga, one of Hubbard's daughters, on the day before his funeral. "It felt like we watched him die in front of our eyes."

Back then, Arteaga told 13News Greenwood Meadows wouldn't provide her any information about the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through the facility. State health officials knew what was going on at the nursing home, but despite repeated data requests from 13 Investigates, they wouldn't release the information either.

"They could have warned all of us so we could have done something about our family and removed him before it got too bad. They should have let us know how many people had it," Arteaga said as she prepared to bury her father who died of complications from COVID-19.

For months, 13News and other Indiana media pushed the Indiana State Department of Health and the governor to change their minds. AARP also joined 13News in an urgent request to state officials, asking them to release detailed coronavirus data for each Indiana nursing home -- data they had been keeping secret since the start of the pandemic.

After fighting for months to keep the information private, the governor and state health commissioner finally made good on a promise to be fully transparent about coronavirus inside Hoosier nursing homes.

Thursday morning, ISDH released its verified data for every long term care facility in Indiana, giving Hoosiers a much clearer picture of where and when COVID-19 has struck the state's most vulnerable residents.

The COVID-19 long term care (LTC) digital dashboard allows users to see aggregated COVID-19 statistics across all Indiana nursing homes -- information the state has been reporting for months. According to that data, 6,664 residents in LTC facilities have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,753 have died from coronavirus-related complications since the start of March. 215 of the cases and 30 of the deaths are newly reported as of Aug. 5.

But it also features a search tool that allows users to search for data COVID-19 specific to each Indiana nursing homes.

"One thing you will notice on the new dashboard is our map," said Indiana Family and Social Services Administration chief medical officer Dan Rusyniak as he announced the new data portal Wednesday afternoon. "This will allow the public to zoom in and identify facilities in their area."

Credit: WTHR
The state's long-term care data portal allows users to see when cases of COVID-19 occurred, and if any new cases have been reported in the past few weeks.

The data includes the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths for each long term care facility, as well as the number of staff members that have tested positve for the virus. For facilities that have a small number of infections and deaths, ISDH does not include as much detail in an effort to protect patient and staff confidentiality. (ISDH and FSSA have not indicated how releasing those details would jeopardize anyone's confidentiality, and the Indiana State Public Access Counselor has previously stated that no such violation of confidentiality would occur by releasing such data.)

The new data portal also shows a timeline for each nursing home, so users can see when cases of COVID-19 occurred, and if any new cases have been reported in the past few weeks.

Credit: Barbara Arteaga
Barbara Arteaga said she never received information about the COVID-19 cases at her father's facility.

"I think it's wonderful that people can see the actual totals," said Arteaga after looking at the new data dashboard. "I wish they had it when my dad was in there. Not knowing is what is the worst part. I think if we had had that information available to us, that we could have done something and got my dad out of there before he got too bad."

Local health departments say the detailed nursing home data will be helpful to them, as well.

“The state collects a lot of data. Information is empowering, so anytime the state is providing information to the public, that is helpful,” said Kandi Jamison, director of public health nursing for the Hendricks County Health Department. “Here at the health department, we use the dashboard data to help guide us with our decisions, so it helps us too. I’m looking forward to really diving into the data.”

Rusyniak said the data will be updated each Wednesday, but it will have a slight delay.

"We would verify any reported case by confirming a positive lab in our system. And likewise, we would verify reported deaths in our system. Since the verification process takes time, the data presented will lag by one week," he said.

To search the ISDH COVID-19 Long Term Care digital dashboard, click on the letters "LTC" when you access this link.

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