The FutureCare – Lochearn nursing home in Northwest Baltimore. Image via Google Street View.
The FutureCare – Lochearn nursing home in Northwest Baltimore. Image via Google Street View.

After previously saying there was “no public health purpose” to sharing data on coronavirus cases at nursing homes and denying requests to release it, the Maryland Department of Health will this week provide that information under orders from Gov. Larry Hogan.

The governor directed the agency to release data on nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other places of congregate living, including cases and fatalities at those places.

“As we plan our recovery, we are taking additional steps to protect our most vulnerable citizens, including older Maryanders,” Hogan said in a statement. “Keeping Marylanders informed and being transparent with the facts continues to be at the heart of our response to COVID-19. We are grateful to the staff in our nursing homes working around the clock to save lives.”

The state health department denied earlier requests for the information from multiple media organizations, saying the data could possibly reveal the identities of people who have tested positive for the virus.

Both The Sun and Washington D.C.-area TV network WJLA were told releasing data on nursing homes “serves no public health purpose” because public access to those facilities is already restricted under one of Hogan’s executive orders.

To date, two of the biggest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the state have occurred in nursing homes. Eighty-one residents and 31 employees tested positive at Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mt. Airy, with at least 18 people there dying from complications with the disease.

In Baltimore, 170 cases were confirmed at FutureCare Lochearn in the northwest part of the city. At least two residents in the nursing home have since died. A wider survey of FutureCare facilities in the Baltimore area conducted by the Baltimore Brew found at least 11 more deaths in the chain’s 15 local nursing homes.

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, as are people with compromised immune systems.

Shortly after Hogan declared a state of emergency in March, the Maryland Department of Health advised long-term care facilities to restrict access to visitors and implement infection control protocols.

On April 5, days after the Mt. Airy outbreak, Hogan directed facilities to have staff wear personal protective equipment, create isolation areas for residents who may have COVID-19 and to expedite testing for symptomatic residents.

Two days later, Hogan announced the formation of “strike teams” made up of local and state health officials, members of the Maryland National Guard and health care providers to triage senior living facilities and provide care.

As of Monday morning, 2,758 people ages 60-69; 1,916 people ages 70-79; and 1,622 people age 80 or older have tested positive for COVID-19 in Maryland, representing nearly one-third of the state’s 19,487 confirmed cases.

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Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...