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HARRISBURG — Amid a growing death toll and mounting pressure from lawmakers and advocates, Pennsylvania officials on Tuesday released a long sought-after list of long-term care facilities where the coronavirus has infected or killed residents.
The information, published by the state Department of Health in a spreadsheet, shows the names of facilities, the county in which each facility is located, the number of resident cases, the number of staff cases, and the number of deaths. “For facilities with less than five in any of these data points, the information is redacted,” the state said.
As the situation inside some of Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities worsened, lawmakers and advocates for seniors called on the state and federal government to release the list. Failing to do so, they said, allowed some facilities to hide known cases of the virus from residents, families, staff, and the larger community, and obscured which homes were most in need of resources.
In early April, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., PA) called on the federal government to widely release the list of facilities with known cases. And by the middle of last month, the nation’s largest advocate for senior welfare, the AARP, also urged Pennsylvania to do so.
But state officials demurred, first saying the data was too convoluted to make public, and later citing a decades-old disease privacy law. The state reversed course following a federal regulatory change that mandates long-term care facilities report cases to federal officials, and notify residents and families.
State health officials said last week they would release the list in compliance with the rule’s new reporting requirements for data collection, which began Sunday.
Several other states made the names of facilities with cases public prior to federal requirements, however, including New Jersey, Minnesota, and Kentucky.
Deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities currently account for more than 68% of all the coronavirus-related fatalities in the state, with 3,086 long-term care residents dead as of Tuesday. Until Tuesday, the state had only released information by county, which showed the highest number of deaths occurring at unnamed homes in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, and Delaware counties.