People who live or work in assisted living and other long-term care institutions account for at least 24 of Oregon's 51 deaths from COVID-19, according to data released by state officials today amid media pressure.
The tally does not include adult foster homes and only includes the nine institutions that have had five or more cases. (In all, 32 facilities around the state, including adult foster homes, have reported at least one case of COVID-19 among staff or residents, according to the Department of Human Services.)
The fact that nearly half of Oregon's coronavirus deaths—at a minimum—were of people in such institutions shows the significant risk to vulnerable people living in close contact with one another.
The Oregon Health Authority and DHS released the figures after a series of Oregonian stories on the large number of cases at two such homes: Laurelhurst Village and at Healthcare at Foster Creek.
DHS attributes the delay in releasing data to an effort to protect people's privacy while sharing information with OHA.
The data released today lists Healthcare at Foster Creek as having the most cases in Oregon—35 cases and nine deaths, according to the press release. (The facility had reported 10 COVID-19 deaths to the press, but OHA is officially counting only nine deaths. The reason for the discrepancy is unclear. DHS did not provide an immediate explanation for it.)
Update: The state corrected its information about the Lebanon Veterans Home, saying 3, not 4, people there died after a case of COVID-19.
Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran had called for more "transparency and focused, assertive action" on the issue earlier today.
State Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis), who chairs the Senate Interim Committee on Human Services, said in a tweet she'd learned of the outbreak from a reporter.
The state now says it will support facilities that have become COVID-19 hot spots, finding them personal protective equipment and staffing, as well as other technical assistance. Both Laurelhurst Village and at Healthcare at Foster Creek are receiving assistance from the state now.
According to the news release, Laurelhurst Village will make space available to other facilities that don't have a way to isolate COVID-19 patients, through a contract with the state.
"COVID-19 presents all of us with unique challenges, and we are deeply concerned about every long-term care resident, facility staff member, and their families who have been touched by this virus," said Mike McCormick, interim director of the DHS Office of Aging and People with Disabilities, in statement.
The governor's office said March 18 that there were "strike teams" in place to address problems at long-term care facilities.
Responding to criticism from Meieran at the time that more should be done for nursing homes, Brown spokesman Charles Boyle said, "Existing COVID-19 testing capacity is geared toward congregate care facilities as well, with public health strike teams dedicated to responding to outbreaks in such facilities."
Correction: The state initially provided the incorrect number of deaths related to the Lebanon Veterans Home. OHA now says 3 people there, not 4, died after contracting COVID-19, changing the statewide total from 25 to 24.