At least 250 nursing homes in Ohio have had residents die due to COVID-19 or its combination with other health problems.
The deaths were concentrated in a quarter of those facilities, accounting for 60% of all coronavirus fatalities in the state’s nursing homes, a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis of federal data shows. Nursing homes have held the majority of the state’s coronavirus deaths, Ohio records show.
The Cincinnati Enquirer made the analysis of federal data after Ohio officials refused to identify nursing homes where residents have died. The federal database only includes about 60% of all the 2,710 deaths at nursing homes and other congregate care facilities in the state. That’s because of a loophole that didn’t require nursing homes to report deaths before May 1 — and because the federal data doesn’t include assisted living or group care homes.
Nursing homes account for 64% of all of Ohio’s coronavirus deaths.
The analysis of the federal data also reveals:
‒ Four nursing homes had per capita death rates so high that 1 of every 2 residents succumbed to the coronavirus. The facilities are located in Wayne, Coshocton, Monroe and Ottawa counties.
‒ Fourteen facilities had more than 20 deaths. One of them had 42, another 30.
‒ Nineteen workers at 10 nursing homes have died due to the coronavirus.
‒ A quarter of the nursing homes with deaths had only one fatality.
‒ Two nursing homes that have had at least 10 deaths are candidates to be placed on the federal government’s special focus facility list of nursing homes. The list is for facilities with a history of poor care.
This is the first time the full list of the 240 plus nursing homes with deaths has been published.
Twelve facilities in Summit County reported a total of 92 resident deaths, according to the database.
As of Thursday, Summit County Public Health reported 177 deaths residing in long-term care facilities, or nearly 74% of the county’s 240 total COVID-19 deaths. The county health department doesn’t identify long-term care facilities that have had deaths, only the total number of deaths in the facilities.
The database didn’t include Akron’s Ohio Living Rockynol, where Kipp Lyons, who died April 22 from complications of COVID-19, was an activities coordinator.
The Colony Healthcare Center in Tallmadge has had 26 deaths. Colony was one of the first long-term care facilities in the area to test all of its residents. The database shows 61 of its 75 residents tested positive.
Pebble Creek in Green had 23 deaths, health records show. The database shows 42 of its 119 residents tested positive.
Both Colony and Pebble Creek are operated by the CommuniCare Family of Companies.
Fred Stratmann, general counsel and chief compliance officer for CommuniCare, said both Colony and Pebble Creek have respiratory care programs. A disease that affects people’s respiratory systems, like COVID-19, is likely to be more deadly in those facilities, where residents already have compromised respiratory systems, he said.
“With the way that care is being driven, we in the nursing home sector are now treating a lot of residents who 20 years ago were hospitalized and unable to leave the hospital,” he said.
Stratmann said the facilities implemented outbreak and isolation procedures and treatment protocols, including treating positive residents with anticoagulant medication and amino acid supplements and using a proning protocol. Researchers have found COVID-19 patients in a prone position — lying face down — were less likely to need intubation and mechanical ventilation.
Pebble Creek hasn’t had a resident test positive since early July, and Colony hasn’t had a new case since May, said Stratmann, adding “Things are a lot better now than they were several months ago when we were seeing these outbreaks in these two buildings.”
“I think there’s a perception that COVID came into the building, and everyone just sat around waiting for residents to perish, and that really wasn’t the case,” he said. “And not just our buildings. Everyone fought hard to do whatever they can to help people and to make sure that we were doing everything we could to treat them.”
Stratmann also said the residents who died are “not statistics to us” but “faces and names.”
“They’re people that we know, that we care for and see on a daily basis,” he said. “We mourn the loss. We take it personally that people have succumbed in our buildings.”
Database has holes
While the Enquirer used the federal tracking system to help with its reporting, the database has holes.
For example, The Enquirer in August uncovered a state report detailing 16 deaths and 100 more infected at Mercy Park West in Cincinnati instead of the 13 found in the tracking system. It’s unclear why there’s a discrepancy in the death tolls.
The Enquirer discovered at least three nursing homes in the Cincinnati region with a total of five COVID-19 deaths that weren’t reported in the federal database.
Christine Colella, professor and executive director of graduate programs at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Nursing, believes the public should have been told of the deaths.
“Absolutely. I think the more knowledge anyone has, the better decisions they can make. I think we need to be as transparent as we can. People need to know,” Colella said. “We all hear about nursing homes in a general sense but nothing specific.”
Why are the deaths concentrated?
So what contributed to 42 deaths at a nursing home in Mahoning County, 30 at a facility in Wayne County and 29 at a location in suburban Columbus?
Failure of workers to follow infection control procedures is one reason why nursing homes, virtually sealed off from all outsiders since early in the pandemic, have had recent COVID-19 infections and deaths.
″(The) COVID-19 disease has put the nursing home industry in crisis,” wrote Dr. Joseph G. Ouslander, a nationally known professor of geriatric medicine at Florida Atlantic University, in a report he co-authored on COVID-19 earlier this year. “The combination of a vulnerable population … staffing shortages due to viral infection, inadequate resources for and availability of rapid, accurate testing and personal protective equipment, and lack of effective treatments for COVID-19 among nursing home residents have created a ‘perfect storm’,” wrote Ouslander. “From a public health standpoint, nursing homes must maintain intensive infection prevention and control education and procedures with continuing ongoing screening of all individuals who enter the facility.”
“Staff have been the primary vectors by which the virus has come from the community” into nursing homes and other congregant living locations, said David Grabowski, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, responding to Enquirer questions in August.
Most of the infections at nursing homes are coming from staff and people who are employed by the facilities, said Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, which represents more than 1,100 assisted living communities, home care and hospice care providers in Ohio.
“Typically, it’s staff members but sometimes it’s even consultants or contractors (therapists or lab technicians) who are going from one facility to another,” Van Runkle said.
Like Ouslander, Van Runkle noted most nursing home residents are susceptible to the coronavirus.
“Nursing facilities are full of people who are old and have medical conditions. That’s why they’re there. And in many cases in the last years of their lives. If they get COVID, their bodies can’t fight off the disease,” he said.
Reported COVID-19 deaths in Summit County nursing homes include:
‒ Grande Village Retirement Community, Twinsburg: Nine resident deaths (rate of 169.8 per 1,000 residents).
‒ The Colony Healthcare Center, Tallmadge: 26 resident deaths (rate of 346.7 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Pebble Creek Healthcare Center, Green: 23 resident deaths (rate of 193.3 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Arbors At Stow, Stow: 17 resident deaths (rate of 204.8 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Green Village Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation, Green: Four resident deaths (rate of 160 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Divine Rehabilitation And Nursing At Canal Pointe, Akron: Three resident deaths (rate of 27.5 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Stow-Glen Retirement Village, Stow: Two resident deaths (rate of 30.3 per 1,000 residents).
‒ The Village of St. Edward, Fairlawn: Two resident deaths (rate of 31.3 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Bath Creek Estates, Cuyahoga Falls: Two resident deaths (rate of 24.1 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Brentwood Health Care Center, Sagamore Hills: Two resident deaths (rate of 28.6 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Copley Healthcare Center, Copley: One resident death (rate of 9.2 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Hickory Ridge Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Akron: one resident death (rate of 7 per 1,000 residents).
In Medina County:
‒ Willowood Care Center, Brunswick: Nine resident deaths (rate of 134.3 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Wadsworth Pointe, Wadsworth: One resident death (rate of 18.2 per 1,000 residents).
In Stark County:
‒ Jackson Ridge Rehabilitation and Care, Jackson Township: 23 resident deaths (rate of 460 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Meadow Wind Health Care Center, Massillon: 19 resident deaths (rate of 441.9 per 1,000 residents).
‒ St. Joseph Senior Living, Louisville: 15 resident deaths (rate of 357.1 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Amherst Meadows Care Center, Massillon: 15 resident deaths (rate of 277.8 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Rose Lane Nursing and Rehabilitation, Jackson Township: Six resident deaths (rate of 42.9 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Altercare of Nobles Pond, Jackson Township: Five resident deaths (rate of 94.3 per 1,000 residents).
‒ The Laurels of Massillon, Massillon: One resident death (rate of 9.5 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Altercare of Alliance, Lexington Township: One resident death (rate of 16.1 per 1,000 residents).
In Portage County:
‒ Anna Maria of Aurora, Aurora: Six resident deaths (rate of 77.9 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Avenue at Aurora, Aurora: four resident deaths (rate of 62.5 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Woodlands Health and Rehabilitation Center, Ravenna: Two resident deaths (rate of 31.3 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Arbors at Streetsboro, Streetsboro: One resident death (rate of 21.3 per 1,000 residents).
In Wayne County:
‒ Smithville Western Care Center, Wayne Township: 30 resident deaths (rate of 508.5 per 1,000 residents).
‒ Glendora Health Care Center, Wayne Township: One resident death (rate of 55.6 per 1,000 residents).