Under intense public pressure, the State of Maryland is now offering a website that lists the nursing home locations with COVID-19 cases. Currently the state’s site shows 4,707 staff and residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 at 186 of the 226 Maryland nursing homes, but those figures are likely to skyrocket once new testing requirements go into effect.
The state website lists the known number of cases and deaths for both staff and residents at each location, updated weekly. This location data is a major victory for Maryland families who have been desperately fighting to get information about the homes where their loved ones reside. The data will also help federal agencies contain the virus by identifying major outbreaks (an estimated 25 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the United States and 50 percent of Maryland’s deaths are related to nursing homes). Because of the lack of testing for the virus, these numbers do not reflect the true incidence rate of the virus, but that is about to change. On April 22, Governor Larry Hogan announced that all Maryland nursing homes will be required to test all of their staff members and residents for COVID-19. “Once these test results come back, we’ll probably see that the state’s figures were artificially low due to a lack of testing,” said Leah Barron, a founding partner at Brown & Barron. “But at least the nursing homes will finally be able to isolate the residents and workers who have the virus.”
The state of Maryland is sending dedicated “strike teams” of medical personnel and testing supplies along with “transition teams” to help coordinate the efforts with existing nursing home staff. Shockingly, Hogan has had to mandate that nursing homes accept the help, as some nursing homes apparently had refused the state’s assistance. In a glaring example of the chaos of the national response to COVID-19, Hogan had to source Maryland’s tests from a supplier in South Korea, and, according to Hogan, the state is hiding the testing stockpiles at undisclosed location to prevent the U.S. federal government from commandeering them.
The most significant outcome of Hogan’s directive is that all staff members of nursing homes will get tested. Until now, nursing home employees were classified as a third-tier priority for testing, meaning they could not get a test unless they demonstrated symptoms. It has long been known that the disease can be spread by asymptomatic carriers. The lack of testing meant that staff members who were asymptomatic carriers were likely spreading the disease without knowing it, including to other facilities where they picked up shifts.
“It is unbelievable that only now are we getting COVID-19 testing for nursing home staff,” said Brian Brown, a founding partner at Brown & Barron. “Since the first case at the Life Care nursing home in Washington, we’ve known that staff members could be spreading the virus to highly vulnerable elderly residents, sometimes to multiple homes, and that these workers might be contagious without knowing it.”
Isolating the infected is the key to preventing the spread of a virus, but you need adequate testing to identify the infected. Governor Hogan’s action to provide universal testing at nursing homes underscores the critical role of testing in saving lives during a viral pandemic. The CDC’s delay in developing an accurate COVID-19 test and the White House administration’s failure to roll out a nationwide testing program will be remembered as key culprits in the preventable deaths of thousands of Americans.
Our attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC focus on representing nursing home residents who have been neglected or abused. We know first-hand how these facilities function, and just how vulnerable residents are to injuries. If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options.