Zurik: Death toll at Lambeth House higher than initially reported by state officials

Extent of COVID-19 in nursing homes remains a mystery due to moves to shield information by state department of health
Three people from the Lambeth House have presumptive positive tests for COVID-19.
Three people from the Lambeth House have presumptive positive tests for COVID-19.(WVUE)
Updated: May. 6, 2020 at 9:55 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The actual death toll at a New Orleans retirement community is far higher than officials initially reported. Initial reports had the death toll at the Lambeth House at 13 people, as of late March. FOX 8 reached out to the families of those who died and reviewed coroner’s documents to show that 23 residents of the Lambeth House died from COVID-19.

Those who died ranged in age from their 70s to their 90s.

At least 11 people died at the facility, according to records from the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office.

Three of the residents had autopsies performed by the Coroner’s office. Two of the residents had Acute Respiratory Distress Disease due to COVID-19. The coroner’s office concluded the other resident died from Hypertensive and Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease due to COVID-19.

On March 30, Lambeth released a statement that there were no new cases, and those recently tested have recovered. What the community did not announce was there were several residents of the house that were still sick and by our review, eight residents died in the days following that statement. According to coroner’s office records, all but one of those residents died at Lambeth House.

In a statement Wednesday night, Lambeth House said their March 30 statement of no new cases was correct, “Regarding the unfortunate deaths that occurred following March 30, in each and every instance, those residents had indeed contracted Covid-19 prior to March 30, as reported to OPH [Office of Public Health].”

The last COVID-19-related death reported at Lambeth House occurred on April 9, according to coroner’s office records.

Lambeth House released a statement saying that “from day one of the initial identified Covid-19 case at Lambeth House, on a daily basis every single positive test result, negative test result, suspected case or death has been reported to the Louisiana Office of Public Health.”

The scope and magnitude of COVID-19 in nursing homes in the state remains a mystery following a move by the Louisiana Department of Health to stop releasing the data it had once freely published. FOX 8 News has filed public records requests for the information but the department said the records are considered confidential due to a state law that says public health investigations are exempt from public release.

The Louisiana Department of Health now releases only summary information to the public and does not list the name of facilities that have had clusters of COVID-19.

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