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Maryland nursing home coronavirus cases fell by 14% over the past week, but data may contain some errors

Even with completion of more widespread testing of Maryland nursing home residents and staff, the number of active COVID-19 cases associated with elder care facilities has fallen by 14% over the past week, according to data posted to a state coronavirus dashboard Wednesday.

About 5,500 residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus at facilities with what the state considers to be “active” outbreaks, where new cases or deaths have been reported in the past week. A week ago, there were 6,400 such infections.

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And though health officials and nursing home industry leaders had warned that widespread testing of nursing home staff could reveal more positive cases and lead to staffing shortages, the number of active cases among facility employees is also falling rapidly. The state is reporting 400 fewer infections among staff than it did a week ago, with 2,800 positive cases.

The facilities reported fewer than 100 new deaths over the past week, the data suggests.

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But a Baltimore Sun analysis of the data suggests it may contain some errors. The state has reported case and death counts for some facilities under slightly different names since it began sharing the data publicly in late April, making it difficult to calculate cumulative totals.

In the case of some nursing homes, such as Pleasant View Nursing Home in Carroll County, the numbers being reported do not reflect all cases and deaths that have occurred cumulatively. That is despite language on the state coronavirus website indicating that, for each individual nursing home, the case and death counts are supposed to indicate “total numbers ever reported to [the Maryland Department of Health].”

Pleasant View has four active staff cases and two resident cases, the website shows. The weekly dashboard does not acknowledge that Pleasant View had previously reported 126 cases and 29 deaths.

At Frederick Health and Rehabilitation Center, six staff members and three residents have recently tested positive, the state reports. The facility had previously indicated 47 cases and 12 deaths.

At Sagepoint Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in La Plata, there is currently a single case of coronavirus among staff being reported. Sagepoint previously reported 123 confirmed cases and 37 deaths.

None of those previously reported cases appear on the weekly dashboard.

State health officials did not respond Wednesday to questions about the inconsistencies.

Gov. Larry Hogan ordered universal testing of all nursing home residents and staff in late April. State health officials said it had been completed by the end of May and that results are now being reflected in publicly reported case counts.

The Sun reported last week that the state’s posted totals of nursing home cases and deaths were not cumulative, as officials had said and as many families, advocates and lawmakers had assumed. Hundreds of cases and casualties were missing from the totals reported each week, because the state removes facilities from the public list when they have not reported new cases or deaths within the past two weeks.

On Wednesday, the state added the cumulative case and death totals to its coronavirus website, reporting 12,168 cases and 1,830 deaths at elder care facilities since the pandemic first hit the state. That means those facilities account for nearly one in five positive coronavirus tests in Maryland, and nearly two thirds of its deaths.

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