Indiana passed another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic this week when the Indiana State Department of Health announced the death toll in Hoosier nursing homes has surpassed 2,000.

The ISDH’s long-term care dashboard update today showed 53 new and confirmed deaths in the last week, pushing the total to 2,046.

Deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities now account for about 58% of all confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the state. That puts Indiana among the top 10 states in which nursing homes account for the highest percentages of all COVID-19 deaths, according to The COVID Tracking Project and data published by The New York Times.  

The first coronavirus death in an Indiana nursing home was reported on March 20 — one week after the state’s first COVID-19 death. Within two weeks, 10 to 20 nursing home residents were dying every day in big cities and small towns across the state.

For 35 straight days — from April 19 through May 24 — the toll was crushing: at least 20 long-term care residents were dying each day, and nine times during that run the daily count topped 30.

Deaths peaked April 22, when long-term care facilities accounted for 38 of the 50 coronavirus deaths reported that day in Indiana. Since then, nursing home deaths have continued daily on a slow, mostly downward trend.

According to the dashboard, Sept. 20 was the first day without a new death since March 28. However, ISDH typically is days or weeks behind in verifying more recent deaths so that streak may be extended by subsequent case confirmations.

Over the last month, the highest daily total was 9 on Sept 6. The last time there were that many deaths in a single day was Aug. 6.

Resident deaths have now been reported at 286 of the state’s more than 750 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and 56%, or 426, of the facilities reported at least one case of COVID-19. The most deaths, 39, were at Harrison Terrace in Indianapolis, one of at least five facilities with 30 or more deaths.Twelve other facilities lost 20 or more residents to the virus.

The state is also reporting a total of 12 deaths among long-term care staff.

The trauma has been compounded by visitation restrictions that have largely kept families from seeing their loved ones. The state began allowing outdoor visitation in June and has allowed facilities to designate an essential family caregiver to enter nursing homes under certain conditions.In September, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued updated guidance requiring nursing homes to offer visitation unless there had been a COVID-19 case in the facility in the last 14 days or the facility’s county had a “high” positivity rate of more than 10%.

Contact Tim Evans at 317-444-6204 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @starwatchtim.

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