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Governor, ISDH reject lawmakers' request to release COVID-19 data by facility

Senate Democrats urge state to publish data for public to see
Posted at 4:09 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 19:13:03-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A group of lawmakers expressed more frustration Thursday after the Governor and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box rejected requests to release COVID-19 for individual long-term care facilities.

Call 6 Investigates has been asking since April where people have died in Indiana nursing homes and where the outbreaks have occurred, but the state has refused to provide the information saying it does not keep the information in a document.

Senate Democrats wrote a letter to Holcomb and Box, urging them to collect and release the data, just days after Call 6 Investigates reported ISDH claims it does not have nursing home documents that contain COVID-19 death and case information.

Nearly half of COVID-19 deaths in Indiana have happened in long term care facilities.

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During a news conference Wednesday, Call 6 Investigates asked Box and Holcomb if they had answered the lawmakers’ letter.

Box said they had not responded, and indicated they have no plans to release nursing home data broken down by facility.

“We are having ongoing discussions with AARP, with the nursing home associations, with the individual facilities,” said Dr. Box. “At the State Dept of Health we have strongly supported releasing that information to all of our residents and all of the individuals that represent them. They give that data directly to the Indiana state department of Health and local health departments and we will continue to support that.”

Box’s response angered State Senator Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis), Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Health Committee.

"Unfortunately, I still don't have a response from either the governor or Dr. Box with regard to the requests stated in our letter,” said Breaux. “I also have yet to see a concise answer to an important question that constituents are asking: Consumers need to know the conditions that exist within long-term care facilities and nursing homes, so how are they supposed to find the information and answers to these concerns?”

At the news conference, Governor Holcomb said they are tracking nursing home deaths.

“There is data, and we are responding to it,” said Holcomb. “We are testing, staff included. We are surging where we need to surge. We aren’t just acting, but we’re also reacting.”

“If I know a facility had 20 deaths 2 months ago, that is not as important to us right now as knowing they’ve had 2 cases occur within the last 24 hours,” said Dr. Dan. Rusyniak, Chief Medical Officer for Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. “I still feel confident we are getting the information we need to rapidly respond and address outbreaks as they occur.”
Senators say they are hearing from constituents who are seeking this information and aren’t able to find it.

"Contrary to what we have been told in public press events, there is no coordinated or standardized method used by all facilities in order to collect and report this data,” said Breaux. “This is what my constituents are pleading for.”

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Breaux and other lawmakers plan to file legislation to require the state to release COVID-19 deaths by the individual facility.

“Both the governor and Dr. Box have the authority to require the collection and reporting of individual long-term care facility data,” said Breaux. “I truly believe it's their duty to do so during this public health crisis."

The state will not compile the data, so RTV6 is gathering positive cases and deaths for facilities and county health departments that are releasing the data.

You can see the full list of nursing home COVID-19 data compiled by the RTV6 team in the document below. This list will be continuously updated as new numbers are provided