ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The coronavirus has heavily impacted Maryland nursing homes, but data regarding the exact number of cases in individual facilities will likely not be released.
The Maryland Department of Health revealed its policy on the matter Thursday afternoon when WUSA9 requested information regarding the specific number of coronavirus cases and deaths at a local nursing home.
A department spokesperson released the following statement:
"The Maryland Department of Health and local health departments will not routinely disclose identifying information about nursing homes or other congregate living facilities with residents and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19. The disclosure of this information serves no public health purpose and could lead to the identification of specific persons who have tested positive for the disease.
The identity of nursing homes or other congregate living facilities at which residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19, along with the numbers of residents and staff with positive test results at a specific facility, falls squarely within the state's confidentiality provisions. The disclosure of the information at this time serves no public health purpose and would not contribute to preventing further spread of the disease, since outside visitors have not been permitted at these facilities for several weeks.
Cases of COVID-19 are closely monitored by public health authorities across the State, which continues to evaluate additional measures to protect the public and the facilities' residents and staff. If further actions are needed to protect the public health and/or residents and staff of these facilities, the State will take those actions. If the disclosure of specific information is needed to protect the public health and/or residents and staff of these facilities, it will be disclosed.
Further, the State expects full compliance with recent federal requirements that all nursing home operators report COVID-19 cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to their residents, residents' families and staff.
The confidentiality provisions in sections 18-201, 18-202, and 18-205 of the Health-General Article are the provisions that support the disclosure statement."
Recently, Charles County residents have pressed the Maryland Department of Health to release statistics regarding the exact number of coronavirus cases at the Sagepoint Senior Living facility in La Plata. Several families have told WUSA9 that multiple deaths, related to the coronavirus' spread, have occurred within that building.
Last Friday, Dr. Howard Haft, executive director of the Maryland Primary Care Program at the Maryland Department of Health, left open the possibility of some Charles County nursing home statistics being released to the public.
"From our perspective, from the state, we're going to be aggregating some of the information across the county and across the state and report it in a responsible way," Haft said. "Right now, we don't have a responsible way to report that that compares kind of apples-to-apples across facilities."
Until Thursday, the Carroll County Health Department had been releasing daily figures on the number of coronavirus cases at the Pleasant View Nursing Home after a COVID-19 outbreak at that facility.
Those numbers can no longer be found on the department's website.
WUSA9 reached out to all of Charles County's delegates and state senators for comment on the state health department's decision not to release nursing home COVID-19 data.
State Senator Arthur Ellis' office said "we do not wish to comment on this matter at this time." WUSA9 is awaiting responses from other state lawmakers.