A new data breakdown shows more than half of reported COVID-19 outbreaks in Virginia are in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. As of Tuesday morning, 56 out of 102 reported outbreaks had occurred in these settings.
Officials declined to identify the names of the facilities where more than 600 people have been infected. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) says according to policy, it won't release these names unless the individual facilities themselves give permission.
A spokesperson for VDH's public records office cited a section of Virginia code barring the state health Commissioner or local health districts from releasing the information to the public. Meanwhile, several other states like Minnesota and Oklahoma are releasing the names of long-term care facilities with confirmed cases.
In Florida, the Miami Herald says it plans to sue the state to get the names of elder-care facilities with coronavirus cases. "Anyone with a relative in an elder-care facility has a right to know if their loved ones are at risk so they can make an informed decision about their care," said Herald publisher Aminda Marqués González.
Dr. Laurie Forlano, Deputy Commissioner for Population Health at the Virginia Department of Health, detailed a recent outbreak in a long-term care facility during a press briefing Monday but was careful not to name the specific location. "Staffing continues to be an issue, and that was true here as well," Forlano said.
Dr. Danny Avula, Director of Richmond City and Henrico County Health Districts, confirmed during a press conference Tuesday that 15 long-term care facilities across the two jurisdictions have confirmed COVID-19 cases. That includes the Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Henrico County, where 45 patients have died after testing positive for the coronavirus.
"This is a disease that spreads at high rates in an elderly, vulnerable population," Avula said. "What we're seeing in congregate care facilities is that asymptomatic spread is an even more significant part of transmission than we realized."
Avula said while the state continues to prioritize testing individuals experiencing coronavirus symptoms, he said tests are being made available to asymptomatic residents of long-term care facilities.