Why Didn’t Massachusetts Officials Release Nursing Homes Coronavirus Data Sooner? Governor Charlie Baker Responds

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/05/29/why-didnt-massachusetts-officials-release-nursing-homes-coronavirus-data-sooner-governor-charlie-baker-responds/

Editor’s Note:  Massachusetts state officials released for the first time on the evening of Wednesday, May 27 the number of deaths attributed to coronavirus at specific long-term care facilities – weeks after reporters first requested the information.

The list shows that 82 privately operated long-term care facilities in Massachusetts have reported 20 or more deaths from coronavirus.

The information appears on pages 21 through 26 of the weekly local coronavirus data released on Wednesdays.

As of 4 p.m. Thursday, May 28, 4,123 of the 6,640 deaths officially attributed to coronavirus in Massachusetts have occurred at long-term care facilities, according to the state Department of Public Health. That’s about 62 percent.

Governor Charlie Baker was asked about the delay in providing data from specific long-term care facilities during a coronavirus press conference in the late afternoon of Thursday, May 28.

Below is a transcript of the exchange, which begins at 10:14 of the video.

The governor’s longer answer starts at 10:35 and ends at 14:39, lasting 4 minutes 4 seconds.


Reporter:  Governor, to pivot to nursing homes, when you look at the dashboard for number of cases at nursing homes, the state is reporting it in ranges – for example, 10 to 30 cases at this nursing home. Why isn’t the state reporting the exact number of cases at nursing homes?

Governor Charlie Baker:  I think we actually did, today.

Reporter:  Up until now?  Why?

Governor Charlie Baker:  Yeah. Well, some of the – first of all, the, the work that’s been done over the course of the past 60 days, which is how long we’ve had this, to create a thorough and comprehensive data pack for the people who are actually working on these issues, as well as the public generally, has been an effort that the commonwealth has put tremendous work into, and by almost every measure is considered to be as good as anybody in the country in terms of making comprehensive data on a very detailed and accurate basis available to people, every day. And there have been a number of areas where we started with what I would describe as kind of a baseline and worked over the course of the past couple of months to make that baseline more and more precise and more and more readily available as we got better at doing what we want with this information.

And I certainly think that, the nursing home story generally?  You know, there was an article in The New York Times today that said if you had to pick a sport that would be absolutely perfect with respect to COVID’s ability to infiltrate it and make it miserable, you would pick basketball. And the reason I read that story is because I’m a basketball player, and I agree.

But if you had to pick a care delivery model that was absolutely perfect for COVID-19 to wreak havoc on it — and it has, across the world and across the country — you would pick a model where people who serve those folks, every day, put their hands on them a lot. They feed them and they bathe them and they dress them and they recreate them and they transport them.

And then to top it all off you make it a virus that in the beginning everybody thought a couple of days of sort of asymptomatic gestation, but then everybody eventually got it, so everybody started with taking everybody’s temperature on their way in at the door as a way of measuring whether and whether or not you were healthy.

And then of course it turned out that in the course of maybe a month or so people started saying they think there are asymptomatic conditions here that are permanent with respect to some of the people who get it. Now it’s at the point where a lot of research is indicating that perhaps as many as 25 to 30 percent, maybe even more, of the people who contract this virus and share it never show any signs of sickness in the first place. And that in many ways has a lot to do with the tragedy associated with long-term care here and in other places.

We’ve made adjustments all the way along. Not just in data, but also in our approach to supporting the industry – of people who work in it and the residents. And this last, this last move, which was a comprehensive audit of the entire industry.  We were one of the first states in the nation to actually start testing residents and staff, on a go-forward basis. We required that every resident and every staff member get tested in this latest round.

In addition to that, we created a very comprehensive infection-control program that everybody had to pass and adopt. And I do believe those measures have had some impact on the fact that we’ve seen the [inaudible] number of cases in the nursing homes go down. And we’ve also seen a decline in the, in the death rates.

But this one for all of us has been very difficult and an enormous tragedy. And something where we have continued to build our data pack as we got smarter about how to collect data and make it available.

And as I said before, by almost any measure Massachusetts’s database is as good as any you’ll find anywhere.