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3News Investigates: Nursing home COVID-19 from state of Ohio data still in doubt

Health officials are struggling to provide accurate COVID-19 cases at nursing homes

CLEVELAND — There are more than 1,600 COVID-19 cases in Ohio's nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The number includes patients as well as staff. The data can be found here.

The updated numbers from the Ohio Department of Health, however, mark only current cases. They don't include the myriad cases that have blown through these facilities since the outbreak began in March.

The numbers also do not detail deaths.

Next week, health officials say they will unveil a more comprehensive list. But, that list will not include any cases prior to April 15. And deaths will only be noted by the county where the patient died and not the identity of the nursing home facility.

For families with loved ones living inside these heavily isolated facilities, answers and data are hard to find.

According to figures released Thursday, O'Neill's Healthcare in North Ridgeville currently has 86 patients and staff who have tested positive.

Lakes of Monclova in Lucas County have 72. ManorCare in Parma is now reporting three cases after previously reporting over 30.

For weeks, Natalie Corriveau hasn't been able to have physical contact with her grandmother, Patricia, whose nursing home is off limits to family due to the government-ordered lockdown.

"Nobody can get in," she said, "They’re not doing any window contact or skyping."

While she can understand the need to isolate the elderly, she said she cannot understand the lack of transparency from health officials.

"We just want the truth," she said. "Honestly, we just want the truth about what the real deal is and who’s been affected?"

3News Investigates has been working since the outbreak began to provide the public with accurate data about Ohio's 961 nursing homes. The news station has sought public records from county health departments, but those requests were initially refused.

 The news station was asking for COVID-19 data - cases and deaths - reported at each nursing home, and not patient names.

Eventually, Dr. Amy Acton, the ODH director, agreed with 3News' position and ordered the data released. Last week, the numbers appeared but they were just as quickly deleted due to a large number of inaccurate reporting numbers.

The list returned this week, in a limited form.

Melanie Amato, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health, said compiling the data from Ohio's 80-plus local health agencies has proven to be a daunting task.

It's data the state has never had to compile before, and it's data that is being gathered quickly.

"The reason is, we didn't have an accurate way to collect that information from the local health departments," she said. "This is a new way of reporting...and so the bugs and the kinks for the local health departments to report this need to be worked out and we understand that."

COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities have garnered national attention, mostly for how prevalent the virus has spread, despite the lockdown.

Many families say they've been frustrated by the lack of information. And many are not pleased with the state's decision to not identify deaths at specific nursing homes.

3News has counted 67 nursing home deaths across the state, as of last Friday.

In addition, all data gathered by health agencies prior to April 15 will no longer be easily accessed. All nursing homes, despite any previous "hot spots," will no longer be detailed on the state website.

"We can’t look at the COVID situation with a half lens," Corriveau said, "It doesn’t do anybody a service ….we need to know the fatality rate and if were not being real, it's not doing anybody any good."

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