THE INVESTIGATORS: Nursing home spokeswoman raises questions about LDH coronavirus data

THE INVESTIGATORS: Nursing home leaders questions LDH data on coronavirus

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Leaders at Old Jefferson Community Care Center say they are concerned about how coronavirus data is being reported by the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

"Just the way they're presented, it leaves a lot of interpretation and a lot of misinterpretation," said Lisa Gardner, spokeswoman for the facility.

The adult care facility recently reported the second highest number of infections in the state, but Gardner says the state used a more current headcount at the home and compared it to total coronavirus numbers that date back to March. That number made it appear that every person but one in the home was infected.

A look at the state’s numbers show the number of deaths are provided, but what’s not given in the nursing home spreadsheet is the number of recoveries. It’s something Gardner believes makes the circumstances appear more grim.

“The current census is going to be for the previous day, but the total number of COVID cases reported are going to be cumulative from the first day it was reported back in mid-March all the way through the current day, so people could misinterpret that,” said Gardner.

Right now, leaders at the facility say 38 people have recovered since the outbreak began; 22 are actively infected and 21 have died. Gardner says the numbers released by the state may be misleading, especially for people who have loved ones in area nursing homes.

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“When they see numbers that aren’t quite straightforward, it creates more anxiety and that’s not something that families or nursing home residents need right now,” said Gardner.

Another bit of information she says is not presented in the state’s numbers is the fact that Old Jefferson has now tested all of their residents whether they’re showing symptoms or not. As the state plans to release new nursing home numbers each week, Gardner believes those kinds of factors need to be considered.

“Public health experts’ knowledge, it’s changing all the time and providers’ knowledge is changing all the time, so I can’t blame LDH for trying to get something up there. I do think it can be more clear,” she said.

The criticism raises a bigger question about the large group of numbers reported by the state every day. When looking at the LDH website, the numbers are alarming. There are currently 35,316 reported cases statewide with 26,247 presumed recoveries and 2,485 reported deaths. The 9News Investigators went looking for average people in downtown Baton Rouge to see if they could look at the numbers provided by the state and give the correct answer for the active coronavirus cases across Louisiana.

SCOTTIE: "Can you tell me how many active coronavirus cases are in Louisiana?”

Kristi Muse: “Yeah... the active cases could be the recovered cases minus the cases reported… so about 9,000.”

SCOTTIE: “How many active cases of COVID-19 are in Louisiana based on these numbers?

John Harwood: “Umm, I’m going off of the cases reported of 35,000 and the presumed recovered, 26,000, so I’d assume that means there’s around 9,000 or so active cases.”

Each person WAFB asked about the active positive cases did not get the correct answer until shown how to do so. While the state provides a lot of information on the website, the number that’s not shown is how many active cases are currently out there. WAFB reached the number by adding the total number of recoveries and the total number of deaths and subtracting that total from the overall reported cases. That number, which should represent the total active cases, came out to be 6,582.

SCOTTIE: “So looking at that information, do you think that’s a little confusing?”

Muse: “Uhh yeah.”

SCOTTIE: “Do you think it would help maybe to have that number of active cases on this list just to give people peace of mind maybe?”

Harwood: “Yeah, some more clarification as to, you know, what the cases reported are versus active cases so that you aren’t having to do the math in your head or even more so, assume that you’re doing the math at all.”

LDH defended the presentation of its numbers, releasing the following statement to WAFB:

“Louisiana was one of the first states to develop a COVID-19 dashboard and it continues to be one of the most robust and transparent sources of data in the country. Our team is constantly working to add new measures and information to further the goal of being as transparent as possible. That said, presenting a total number of cases as we’ve done and continue to do is the most accurate measure of the spread of the pandemic in the state. We understand the importance of how many residents have recovered from COVID-19 will continue to update presumed recoveries once each week on the dashboard.”

In response to WAFB’s questions about the nursing home numbers, LDH released the following statement:

“In sharing this information, we’re following the lead of the federal government and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The data we report is reported to us by the facilities themselves, including census numbers, the number of infections, and the number of deaths. In the spirit of transparency, we are sharing this information at the facility level instead of an aggregate number as CMS is doing. Our nursing home population is the most at-risk and the most vulnerable, so the department is regularly working with the facilities to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect their residents.”

The virus is still very much a problem in Louisiana and as the state continues to forge ahead with reopening, leaders stress it’s more important than ever to social distance and wear a mask.

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