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Ohio families with loved ones in care facilities such as nursing homes learned Thursday the names of centers touched by the novel coronavirus. Northgate Park in Colerain Township recorded nearly half of Hamilton County’s 80 cases confirmed in care facilities.
But the new information on the case counts, released at the Ohio Department of Health, also generated confusion over the numbers and even the names of some facilities. Loved ones who sought answers Thursday said they weren’t satisfied.
“The funny thing is, I did feel until now that they were on top of things,” said Janis Lucas of Cleves, whose father-in-law is a Northgate Park resident. In letters to families, Lucas said, the facility had been saying it had two cases. The state reported 37.
The full list of the local nursing homes is at the bottom of this story.
Lucas said a Northgate Park official told another family member that the state’s reported number was not correct. The facility did not return repeated messages Thursday seeking comment. In addition, the state originally listed Northgate Park under a previous owner that had sold the property in 2017.
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Officials at other facilities with reported confirmed cases told The Enquirer Thursday they had instituted stringent daily disinfection at their buildings and social distancing among residents. Visitors have been forbidden for more than six weeks.
They said they almost better than anyone understands that COVID-19, the lung disease that results from infection with the novel coronavirus, is especially threatening to vulnerable populations such as people older than 65 and those with chronic illnesses.
“You want to know why you can’t get Lysol wipes right now?” said spokesman Fred Stratmann for CommuniCare Health, the Blue Ash-based parent company for the Burlington House Rehabilitation and Alzheimer’s Center in Springdale. “It’s because the health care workers are wiping down counters, elevator buttons, keyboards, telephones three times a day.”
Stratmann said the facility put the heightened cleaning regimen into effect March 5 as well as the no-visitation order. Yet Ohio officials reported Thursday that there were clocked two cases at Burlington’s 100-bed facility, although Stratmann said the number now is eight patients and one staff member positive.
Since the arrival of the novel coronavirus in the United States in January, long-term care institutions have been afflicted. This week, when news organizations argued the facility names and case counts were Ohio public records, state health director Dr. Amy Acton signed an order to release the information. The department plans to update the list Wednesdays at 2 p.m.
As of Thursday, at least 838 residents of Ohio nursing homes, assisted-living centers, rehabilitation facilities, memory-care units and other communal health care settings have tested positive for COVID-19. The cases revealed Thursday, which includes some facility employees, represent about 9% of the state’s total.
While the state hasn’t released data on the number of deaths in long-term care facilities due to COVID-19, Gannett Ohio reporters throughout the state by Thursday evening had tallied 71 deaths reported by local county health officials or nursing homes themselves, but the number is incomplete and likely greater.
Of the 17 facilities in Hamilton County on the state’s list, four are in Cincinnati, three are in Colerain Township and two are in Sycamore Township. The rest are dotted around the county.
One Butler County nursing home, the Knolls at Oxford, had one case. Spokeswoman Megan Ulrich said the patient was living independently with his spouse at the facility when he came down with COVID-19. He was quickly hospitalized for treatment and now is recuperating at the facility’s skilled nursing center. Ulrich said no one else at the facility was infected.
Two Warren County facilities had cases: the Sheridan at Mason assisted living center had six, and Cedarview Rehabilitation & Nursing Care of Lebanon had one. None of Clermont County’s 22 nursing homes and assisted living centers have reported a case so far.
Peter van Runkle, executive director of the trade group the Ohio Health Care Association, said his membership found “numerous errors” in the ODH list. He said he worries consumers may feel facilities are “not being honest with them.”
“Since the beginning, OHCA has advised members to communicate with their families and their employees clearly and frequently so no one feels they are being kept in the dark,” he said. “That also gives the provider an opportunity to explain what they are doing to provide care and to try to limit spread of the virus. This usually goes a long way to calming fears, given that we are all living in a very uncertain environment right now.”
Greg Kesterman, interim Hamilton County health commissioner, said the facilities are doing “everything in their power to keep their residents safe.”
Some facilities, particularly those able to provide more intensive care and without apartment-style living, have moved residents with the virus to their own wing.
Staff at the facilities have started new procedures for delivering food, Kesterman said, and residents are largely quarantined to their living spaces.
Reporter Max Londberg and the Columbus Dispatch contributed.
Jacob Myers of the Columbus Dispatch contributed
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