CUMBERLAND — As COVID-19 invades nursing homes, should the location of facilities where staff members and residents test positive for the disease be made public?
Some folks answer "no," while others believe the information is vital to track the spread of the virus.
But it’s tough to understand where the line is drawn when it comes to protecting someone’s privacy.
On Monday, the Allegany County Health Department confirmed the latest COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 18.
A male in his 80s, and “three Mineral County residents who work in Allegany County” have the disease, the health department reported.
Over the weekend, ACHD reported “two staff members and one resident” of a local nursing home tested positive for COVID-19.
So far, the health department has released age, sex and sometimes basic details, such as "staff members," about people who’ve tested positive for the disease.
Racial and demographic breakdowns of COVID-19 case data will be released by the Maryland Health Department, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered last week.
However, ACHD won’t provide the location of a long-term facility or business where a COVID-19 outbreak has been confirmed.
More than 3,600 deaths nationwide have been linked to coronavirus in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to The Associated Press.
Because the federal government has not been releasing a count, the AP has kept its own running tally based on media reports and state health departments.
The latest count of at least 3,621 deaths is up from about 450 deaths just 10 days ago.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this week could push elder-care facilities to share more information about coronavirus cases with residents, staff and family members, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Sixteen states have released names of nursing homes with infections, NBC News reports.
“Maryland and Ohio declined to release the names of affected facilities or the total number of nursing home deaths because of state privacy laws, state officials said, despite an outbreak that has killed 18 residents in a single Maryland nursing home and at least 40 nursing home deaths in Ohio,” the report states. “Some states have only published such details after public pressure for greater disclosure. Two Democratic senators sent a letter to federal health officials last week demanding a complete list of affected U.S. facilities.”
Hogan last week said specific case data, including testing, hospitalizations and mortality rates, will be made available about people that have COVID-19.
“We now have cases and or clusters of cases at 90 nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ACHD reports basic COVID-19 case information three times a week.
The latest indicates 531 people have been tested for the disease with 476 negative and 38 pending results. After that data was provided Monday, the ACHD reported the 18th COVID-19 case in the county.
The Garrett County Health Department provides updates of positive COVID-19 cases daily by noon.
On Monday, of 180 Garrett residents tested for the disease, four results were positive, 122 negative and 54 pending.
“The best way to protect yourself and your household is to stay at home,” GCHD stated in a press release. “But if you need to go out for essential reasons, do your part to protect everyone by wearing a face covering.”