TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The number of people dying from the coronavirus in Ohio’s nursing homes has continued to increase at an alarming pace.
Close to 500 residents of long-term care centers have died in the past three weeks, according to data released by the state this week. That’s nearly double the total reported for the previous two weeks.
The increase in deaths could be attributed to a significant jump or a backlog of cases being added over the past week, said Melanie Amato, a spokeswoman for the state health department.
Since mid-April, more than 4,300 nursing home residents and staff members have tested positive for the virus.
The numbers, though, don’t tell the entire story of how the virus has devastated nursing homes during the pandemic because the Ohio Department of Health has only released the totals for just the past three weeks.
Before that, the state didn’t require local health departments to report nursing home deaths linked to the virus so any numbers collected before mid-April may not be accurate, Amato said Friday.
Overall, the nursing home deaths reported since April 15 account for 40% of all the virus-related deaths in Ohio since the first one was reported in mid-March.
Seven counties across the state have seen more than 30 deaths at long-term care centers in the past three weeks.
Toledo and Lucas County reported the most, 65, which doubled the number from last week. Franklin and Mahoning counties both had 46 nursing home deaths during that time.
For many nursing homes, it’s virtually impossible to keep the virus out, especially in cities where it has spread widely, said Dr. Mark Gloth, chief medical officer for Toledo-based HCR ManorCare.
Most of the buildings were never designed as hospital environments and include shared spaces meant to encourage social interaction, he said.
The mortality rate is nearly 15% among residents who’ve tested positive at the company’s nursing homes operated nationwide, Gloth said.
About half of its more than 200 long-term care centers have had residents with the virus—with some of the larger facilities recording as many as 100 cases, he said earlier this week.
The biggest frustration has been with the lack of personal protection equipment, especially gowns, and testing kits, Gloth said. “Long-term care is an after thought,” he said.
The worry now is that the shortages will increase as states are lifting orders that had stopped non-essential medical procedures, he said.