State and local health departments should release information to the public about all coronavirus cases and deaths involving long-term care facilities.

Regular reports from the Indiana State Department of Health and the Madison County Health Department should include the names and locations of the nursing homes. The state health department should also create a public-facing database that lists every nursing home in the state, along with the number of cases and deaths at each.

It’s understandable that managers of nursing homes don’t want their facilities to be associated with the stigma of the disease and don’t want residents and their families to panic. And it’s also somewhat understandable that health officials don’t want to cause unneeded public relations harm and unrest in the facilities.

But the overriding concern here should be the public’s right to know. We’re talking about the endangerment of lives here.

Wouldn’t you want to know all of the facts directly from public health officials if your parents or grandparents were in a nursing home?

Of Madison County’s 44 confirmed COVID-19 deaths through Thursday, 40 were of long-term care facility residents. Thirty-three residents of Bethany Pointe Health Campus in Anderson, six residents of Summit Health & Living in Summitville and one resident of Fall Creek Retirement Village in Pendleton have died.

The age and medical conditions of many residents, coupled with living quarters under the same roof, make nursing homes susceptible to viral outbreaks.

Residents, their families and the general public need to know in the midst of this pandemic which facilities have had cases among residents and staff, how many cases there have been, how many have died and what the facility and health officials are doing to address the problem.

Rumors, accusations, exaggerations and outright lies will fill the void when information isn’t provided by state and county health officials.

Newsroom staff at The Herald Bulletin have fielded more than a dozen complaints claiming that unreported coronavirus cases are cropping up at local nursing home facilities. In some cases, we’re told, staff members are either trying to hide the cases or are not following best practices to stop the spread of the disease and care for those who’ve contracted the virus.

In many cases, the complaints might be embellished or have no basis in truth, but some people will believe whatever they read on Facebook or whatever scuttlebutt reaches their ears.

The only way to dispel the cloud of misinformation is for state and county health departments to report regularly on nursing homes. A public-facing database should include details, including the names and locations of the facilities where coronavirus cases and deaths have occurred.
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