After refusing to do so for months, Virginia officials on Friday released information about COVID-19 outbreaks in specific nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state, revealing that the virus has claimed the lives of at least 55 residents of such facilities in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park.
The information, posted on Virginia Department of Health’s Coronavirus website for the first time Friday, June 19, showed that 11 long-term care facilities in the local health district reported COVID-19 outbreaks from March 27 through May 16.
The data show the outbreaks have resulted in 416 local cases of COVID-19 and at least 55 deaths. The numbers represent only about 4.8% of the health district’s total cases of COVID-19, which stood at 8,510 on Friday, but at least 36% of the health district’s 152 deaths.
It’s not clear how many total deaths resulted from outbreaks at the 11 local long-term care facilities because the state is suppressing fatality information for facilities that had five or fewer deaths. As a result, only four of the 11 facilities are shown to have COVID-19 deaths.
Birmingham Green, in Manassas, reported the highest number of residents lost to COVID-19 among local long-term care facilities with 33 deaths. Birmingham Green also reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases among its nursing care patients: 132.
Birmingham Green has not had a new case of COVID-19 in 20 days but currently has active cases among five residents and nine staff members, according to an update on the facility’s website posted on Wednesday, June 17, by CEO Denise Chadwick Wright.
Across its assisted living and nursing care facilities, 48 residents and 72 residents have recovered from COVID-19, Wright's note said.
Birmingham Green is a publicly supported nursing home and assisted living facility for low-income seniors and disabled residents in the city of Alexandria and Fairfax, Fauquier, Prince William and Loudoun counties.
Lake Manassas Health and Rehabilitation, in Gainesville, was the first local facility to report an outbreak of COVID-19. The facility reported eight COVID-19 cases associated with an outbreak that began on March 27. The VDH did not release the number of patients who died as a result of the facility’s coronavirus infections, however, because the information was suppressed.
There are two outbreaks currently “in progress” in the Prince William Health District, according the data.
One is at the Envoy of Woodbridge nursing home, first reported on May 16, with 70 cases. The other is at Manassas Health and Rehabilitation Center, first reported on May 18, with 11 cases. The number of deaths at both facilities has been suppressed to preserve patient privacy.
The status of the outbreaks at the remaining nine local long-term care facilities is listed as “pending closure,” meaning that 28 days have passed without a documented new case, but the outbreak has not yet been “closed” by the VDH.
In addition to Birmingham Green, there are three long-term care facilities that have reported more than five deaths due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Arbor Terrace Sudley Manor Assisted Living, located in Manassas, reported 22 cases and nine deaths since an outbreak was first reported there on April 18.
Gainesville Health and Rehabilitation nursing home reported 67 cases and eight deaths since an outbreak was reported there on April 18.
Harbor Chase MultiCare facility, located in Woodbridge, reported 14 cases and five deaths since an outbreak was reported there on May 9.
Facility-specific data released at Gov. Ralph Northam's request
The VDH released the facility-specific data about outbreaks in long-term care facilities at the request of Gov. Ralph Northam, according to a Friday press release from his office.
“Due to the widespread nature of this pandemic, it is now unlikely that releasing facility information would compromise anonymity or discourage facilities from participating in a public health investigation,” the release said.
Citing state privacy laws, the VDH previously released only aggregate data about outbreaks in long-term care facilities.
The development coincides with Northam’s announcement that the state is directing $246 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to efforts aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes and long-term care centers, which have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.
As of Friday, the VDH had reported outbreaks at 230 long-term care facilities across the state that have resulted in 6,519 COVID-19 cases and 1,000 deaths.
The money will be used to address staffing shortages, boost infection control measures and purchase personal protective equipment. It will also help the facilities comply with new testing requirements outlined in the state’s new guidelines for reopening long-term care facilities to visitors, according to Northam’s press release.
More than $56 million is being provided for periodic testing of nursing home residents and staff. The majority of funding will go to nursing facilities that receive Medicaid payments, the release said.
“The lockdowns of long-term care facilities to protect residents and staff from the spread of COVID-19 have been hard on residents and their families,” Northam said in a statement. “These actions will help support long-term care facilities as they ease those restrictions, while keeping their residents safe and ensuring that the public gets accurate information on the spread of this virus in these facilities.”
Assisted living facilities will receive $20 million in support, “nearly doubling state funding for these facilities, in recognition that these facilities are also experiencing additional costs and have not had the federal support that nursing facilities have received,” the release said.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services outlined reopening criteria May 18 for nursing facilities. These criteria recommend that all facilities conduct a baseline testing survey, and that facilities with outbreaks test residents and staff weekly.
VDH’s state-specific guidelines for reopening nursing homes require licensed nursing homes, certified skilled nursing facilities and certified nursing facilities to conduct baseline and ongoing testing of all facility staff and residents while those facilities are in the first phase of the reopening process, the release said.
Testing recommendations for latter phases of the reopening process are under development and will be informed by what is learned in the initial part of reopening, the release said.
Because a majority of outbreaks in the commonwealth have occurred in long-term care facilities, VDH, in partnership with the Virginia National Guard, has helped long-term care facilities conduct “baseline” or point-prevalence surveys. The process involves testing all residents and staff in the same time period to find out how widespread infections are in the various facilities.
VDH has a goal to complete these baseline surveys of all Virginia nursing homes by July 15, the release said.
CORRECTION: The COVID-19 numbers for Birmingham Green have been updated to note that the 132 cases reported by the Virginia Department of Health involved only residents in Birmingham Green's nursing care facility. The facility also has had 48 staff members and 72 residents recover from COVID-19. The total number of cases reported in the facility -- involving both residents and staff -- was not immediately available Friday.