BOISE, Idaho (AP) — More than 60% of Idaho's coronavirus-related deaths are among residents of long-term care facilities like nursing homes, according to numbers released by the state on Friday.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said that so far 25 long-term care facilities have had COVID-19 outbreaks since the pandemic reached Idaho's borders earlier this year. A total of 289 residents and staffers at the facilities were confirmed to have the illness, according to the report, and of them 52 people have died.
Statewide more than 3,000 people have contracted COVID-19 and 83 people have died, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare had previously refused to reveal facility-specific case numbers during the public health crisis. The Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise warned last week that it would sue the department if it continued to withhold the records. The government transparency organization Idahoans for Openness in Government also wrote state officials urging them to release the information.
“We have re-examined the data, which unfortunately includes an increasing number of cases now, and have developed a process to release the numbers for specific facilities without revealing a diagnosis of COVID-19 or the cause of death for any individual resident,” Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator for the Division of Public Health, wrote in a prepared statement released Friday. “It’s a delicate balance to protect the privacy of Idahoans while also being as transparent as possible.”
Idaho has about 400 long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities.
The facilities with the biggest outbreaks so far include the Life Care Center of Lewiston, where 54 people were infected and 18 died; Bridgeview Estates in Twin Falls, where 48 people were infected and 11 died; and Avamere Transitional Care and Rehabilitation in Boise, where 42 peple were infected and two died. The Health and Welfare Department said the outbreak at Avamere has since ended, but cases are still considered active at the Lewiston and Twin Falls facilities.
Long-term care facilities across the country have been ravaged by the pandemic. The virus poses a higher risk of more severe illness or death for older adults and people with existing health problems.