California has restored the names of assisted living communities where COVID-19-related deaths have occurred to a state website shortly after resident advocates questioned the move and blamed the long-term care industry. An industry group, however, said it did not ask the state to stop publishing the data.

The California Department of Social Services, which began publishing daily updates about the spread of the virus in late April, posted a memo announcing it was going to delete the COVID-19 death data from its website, but then quickly backtracked, saying the agency “made a mistake” in removing the data, according to the Sacramento Bee. The state left in place details about communities with current coronavirus cases and how those counts changed daily.

The agency’s daily coronavirus report had, until that point, included case and fatality counts at the state and county levels, as well as facility names. Critics blamed the state’s for-profit senior living industry for the change.

Sally Michael, president and CEO of the California Assisted Living Association, said the association had not spoken to anyone at the state about the change and is not aware of the decision-making process that led to restoring the previously eliminated information. CALA did not ask the state to stop publishing the data, she said, and “did not ask for or offer an opinion on a move away from historical deaths and case counts in [Department of Social Services] data reporting.”

“Rather, we asked for an augmentation in their data reporting to include the number of recovered cases by facility,” Michael told McKnight’s Senior Living. “This request was made so that individuals seeking information would have access to data that more accurately reflects current trends and timelines. By adding data on recovered cases, individuals would have the context to assess what is happening currently in a particular community.”

According to published reports, at least 529 assisted living residents in California have died from COVID-19 complications, and almost 5,000 people have tested positive. 

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care is seeking proposals for a grant-funded study that will provide transparency and understanding of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on care settings to aid in future health crisis preparedness. The study aims to better understand and define the effects of the novel coronavirus on residents in independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing properties, with a comparable population living in non-congregate traditional residential home settings.
  • Oregon’s licensed long-term care providers can begin providing limited outdoor visitation for residents if the community develops a plan to adhere to required safeguards to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Health screenings, face coverings, physical distancing and limiting visitors are mandatory as Oregon continues to experience an increase in outbreaks in long-term care.
  • If fewer of America’s older adults will live in assisted living communities or nursing homes after the COVID-19 pandemic, where and how will they live? Dr. Bill Thomas believes there will still be a need for these settings, and many of the poor, frail and ill population will continue to rely on them. But he also expects to see more emphasis on stopping the spread of infection there, leading to more private rooms and spaces, additional technology and reduced staffing.
  • Arbor Lake assisted living in Farmerville, LA, built a visitor spot out of wood, a plastic shield and some paint, allowing visitors to sit on a bench and chat with their loved ones who sit in a booth. Staff members hope to offer the visiting booth until it’s safe to offer in-person visitation for families.
  • Florida Community Care, a provider services network serving the long-term care industry, partnered with the Florida Assisted Living Association to distribute more than 300,000 fresh produce boxes to older adults, ensuring access to fresh fruits and vegetables as part of their COVID-19 relief effort.
  • Essential workers at a Brookdale Senior Living community in West Orange, NJ, got a refreshing snack as a gesture of thanks for their dedication during the coronavirus crisis. Caring Senior Service of Essex County partnered with Puras Paletas to offer gourmet icy fruit pops to staff members.