Update on 6/19/20 — Based on new data from the Virginia Dept. of Health, the actual number of deaths at Regency Care is 30.
Earlier: Local nursing homes have reported dozens of coronavirus cases and deaths, federal data shows.
As the number of new COVID-19 cases in Arlington continues to rise at a relative trickle — nine new cases and no new hospitalizations reported overnight — a look back at data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) shows the outsized role some nursing homes played during the peak of Arlington’s outbreak.
As of May 31, four nursing homes alone contributed 178 cases and 98 deaths to Arlington’s total, according to the CMS data, though there are some questions about the numbers, as noted below. The county’s cumulative total currently stands at 2,372 cases, 407 hospitalizations and 124 deaths.
The four Arlington nursing homes for which CMS data was available:
- Cherrydale Health and Rehabilitation Center (3710 Lee Highway): 82 confirmed cases, 8 related deaths
- The Jefferson (900 N. Taylor Street): 10 confirmed cases, 6 related deaths
- Manorcare (550 S. Carlin Springs Road): 13 confirmed cases, 1 related death
- Regency Care (1785 S. Hayes Street): 73 confirmed cases, 83 related deaths
The numbers for Regency Care seemingly do not add up, with more COVID-related deaths (83) than confirmed cases (73). Multiple attempts by ARLnow to reach an administrator at the Pentagon City facility prior to the publication of this article were unsuccessful and Arlington’s health department declined multiple requests for clarification, citing “patient privacy laws.” Other news reports suggest that the CMS data is “riddled with errors.”
However, ARLnow has received numerous tips about the facility since the start of the pandemic.
“Thought the public should know… the nursing home Regency Care of Arlington had a huge COVID outbreak on the 5th floor,” said one tipster in early April. “This is something terrible.”
“Regency Care of Arlington nursing home has the highest amount of COVID cases in Arlington with well over 100 cases,” another tipster said, in May. The assertion of over 100 cases could not be confirmed and is not shown in the CMS data, which was last updated on May 31.
On Wednesday afternoon, a woman identifying herself as the administrator of Regency Care called ARLnow and asserted that the number of deaths reported by CMS was inaccurate. She chastised ARLnow for publishing this article and for taking photos of the outside of the facility without the company’s permission. She declined numerous requests to provide the accurate number of deaths at the facility and abruptly hung up the phone.
“As a health district under [the Virginia Dept. of Health], we are unable to provide or confirm patient data at individual long term care facilities due to patient privacy laws,” said Arlington County spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell. She noted that the county has been working with nursing homes, assisted living centers and other such facilities to mitigate outbreaks.
“Working with long-term care facilities is an ongoing priority for Arlington Public Health, and our team works with skilled nursing and assisted living facilities throughout the year to control and prevent outbreaks, such as norovirus and the seasonal flu, even prior to COVID,” O’Donnell said. “Arlington Public Health has been working with these facilities to implement CDC and VDH guidance for COVID-19 infection control and prevention measures, including things like monitoring residents and staff for signs and symptoms of COVID, providing guidance on proper PPE and cleaning/disinfecting protocols.”
A county webpage on the topic says that the majority of COVID-19 deaths in Arlington have occurred at long-term care facilities.
“The majority of deaths from COVID-19 in the Commonwealth of Virginia have been associated with LTCFs, including Arlington,” the page says. “We are saddened by the deaths of anyone from COVID-19, especially residents in our LTCFs. Their age, their chronic medical conditions, and their setting put them at greater risk. This is why we place a special focus on residents and staff at these facilities.”
ARLnow has previously reported on outbreaks at other types of long-term care facilities, including at least 31 cases and nine deaths at just one Virginia Square assisted living center — Brookdale Senior Living — as of mid-May.
In all, the Virginia Dept. of Health reports 16 known individual outbreaks in Arlington, including 10 at long-term care facilities, three in “congregate settings” like gyms and churches, and three in healthcare settings like medical offices. Those outbreaks were responsible for 465 cases, including 168 among healthcare workers, according to the state health department.
“Residents of LTCFs are usually at greater risk for exposure to germs, such as flu, norovirus, and the novel coronavirus based on their care needs, especially because they often require assistance with one or more activities of daily living, which puts them in much closer physical distance or contact with caregivers” O’Donnell explained. “Additionally, staff or visitors can bring in germs when symptomatic and also asymptomatically – that is they can spread germs before they have symptoms. And spread can then occur between residents and staff in similar ways once the virus is in a facility.”
Of the 124 coronavirus-related deaths in Arlington, all but 10 have been among those ages 60 and above, according to VDH.