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AARP calls on Maryland to share nursing home COVID-19 data | READER COMMENTARY

In the fog, Carroll County Health Department personnel place a "no trespassing" sign by the driveway of the Pleasant View Nursing Home, in Mount Airy last month after the facility was struck by an outbreak of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
In the fog, Carroll County Health Department personnel place a "no trespassing" sign by the driveway of the Pleasant View Nursing Home, in Mount Airy last month after the facility was struck by an outbreak of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Thousands of long-term care facilities in the United States have experienced coronavirus outbreaks and Maryland’s own nursing homes are not exempt. Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to their advanced age and underlying health conditions. Worse, studies show the fatality rate for those over 80 is six times that of the rest of us. That is why AARP Maryland is calling for the state to shed light on what is happening in our long-term care facilities by reporting to the public the names of facilities with confirmed cases among residents and staff (“Maryland won’t detail nursing home coronavirus outbreaks, saying ‘disclosure serves no public health purpose,'” April 23).

As each day of the pandemic passes, family members, staff and communities are becoming increasingly worried about the health and safety of those inside long-term care facilities. The lack of transparency from state health officials and facilities only adds anxiety. As The Baltimore Sun reported recently, “Maryland health officials have never provided a full list of the nursing homes where outbreaks of the infectious new contagion have been confirmed, even to the administrators and staff working to protect elderly and infirm residents.”

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We applaud Gov. Larry Hogan and his team for acting swiftly to create a “Nursing Home Strike Force” but for the sake of our older Marylanders, we ask that they take an additional, critical step and be more transparent. They must require timely reporting from long-term care facilities and share this information with the public so families know the facts about their loved ones. Coronavirus has meant most residents cannot have in-person visitors. But it does not mean families can’t have answers. It’s time for the state to require full transparency and disclosure now because information empowers families to act, speak up and protect those we love.

"Care facilities are ground zero in the fight against the coronavirus, representing a shockingly high share of deaths,” says Bill Sweeney, AARP senior vice president for government affairs. “Even more terrifying is that we are fighting this fight without the facts. The guidance from CMS will provide more transparency, but with such a fast-spreading disease, the reporting of facility names with confirmed COVID-19 cases needs to be made public and happen daily. Families have a right to know what is happening to their loved ones.”

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Hank Greenberg, Baltimore

The writer is state director of AARP Maryland.

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