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Give Us Coronavirus Nursing Home Numbers, Some State Legislators Say

May 24, 2020

State legislators unhappy with the amount of information the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is providing about coronavirus cases and deaths at individual long-term care facilities are supporting a bill that would require the information to be made public.

Massachusetts Senate Bill 2708 would require the state’s public health agency to publish every day on its web site the number of coronavirus cases in each town or city that has at least 25, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities by name.

Local health officials don’t have to give that information out currently, and some don’t, reports The Cape Cod Times, which has tried unsuccessfully to get the numbers from certain towns on the Cape.

State health officials have said they are limiting the amount of information they release in order to protect the privacy of medical patients.

State Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) finds the reasoning thin. She argues that numbers don’t give away names, and she notes that the bill explicitly directs public health officials to avoid giving information about specific individuals, according to The Cape Cod Times.

She said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker should simply order the state Department of Public Health to provide the data.

“They have the numbers,” Jehlen said on Wednesday, May 20, according to The Cape Cod Times. “They could be making a difference in how we act in nursing homes and assisted living and in the community but that information isn’t available and it is extraordinarily frustrating.”

The bill was filed on Monday, May 18 by state Senator Michael Rodrigues, the Senate Ways and Means Committee chairman.

The governor’s press office could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday, May 24.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday, May 24, 3,890 people have died of coronavirus in long-term care facilities in Massachusetts, according to the state Department of Public Health. That’s about 61 percent of the 6,372 deaths in the state officially attributed to coronavirus.

The average age of people who have died from the virus in Massachusetts is 82.





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