Reversal on Nursing Home COVID-19 Disclosures

June 24, 2020

Until Friday morning, even leaders in the long-term care industry had no idea Virginia was about to reverse course on releasing the names of nursing homes and assisted living facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks. 

The news release also came as a surprise to many state legislators, including some of the most vocal opponents of the previous policy.  

“I can’t explain the reason for the about-face. My interpretation all along is that they had the authority to do it. What they were citing was privacy, but when you have dozens and dozens of cases in a facility, there’s no reason that should even be an issue,” said Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington. 

Legislators weren’t alone in expressing bemusement over the change. Sara Blose, director of health advocacy for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, said she had never been able to find support for the state’s argument that facilities had individual privacy rights, either in state code or through legal precedent. She guessed the reversal might have had more to do with public pressure coupled with the recent federal disclosure of facility-specific information, which, in some cases, inaccurately reported case and death counts at the state’s long-term care facilities.

“That’s my best guess as to why they’re truly shifting to be a little more transparent,” Blose said. “Because how else do you target the spread? You really can’t.”

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