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Missouri Health Officials Won't Name Nursing Homes With Coronavirus Cases

Delmar Gardens' Meramec Valley facility on April 30, 2020.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services began listing Friday the number of nursing homes in each county that have at least two coronavirus cases.

Missouri health officials do not plan to publicly identify nursing homes that have residents or workers who have tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Dr. Randall Williams, director of the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said Friday that state law does not allow the department to name facilities. Instead, the department will disclose the number of nursing homes, other long-term care facilities and prisons in each county that have at least two coronavirus cases. 

The state’s decision to withhold names of nursing homes where there are positive cases disappoints advocates for nursing home residents and their families. Thousands of nursing home residents in Missouri and Illinois have tested positive for the virus.

Not knowing which nursing homes have coronavirus cases makes it hard for families who need to put relatives into a facility, said David Terry, an attorney who has represented nursing home residents and families who have sued facilities. 

“They should have that information before they put Mom or Dad into a nursing home,” Terry said. 

Many health officials across the country initially said they would not disclose names of facilities with infected residents or staff. But hundreds of nursing homes have reported outbreaks, including Frontier Health and Rehabilitation in St. Charles, where at least 64 residents have tested positive and 17 have died.

Some families have claimed that nursing homes aren’t informing them about cases at their relative’s facility. 

Health departments in New York and Illinois began identifying nursing homes and the number of cases they have in recent weeks.

Naming a nursing home that has infected residents does not violate patient privacy, Terry said. 

“Identifying a nursing home that has one or more residents with the COVID-19 virus doesn’t identify any specific patient any more than saying this nursing home has five individuals with bedsores,” he said. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid on this week began requiring nursing homes to inform designated family representatives about residents who test positive for the coronavirus. 

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Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
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