MN Health Dept. officials continue to conceal information on nursing home deaths due to coronavirus

The state of Minnesota will not release the names of the skilled nursing facilities where patients have tested positive for coronavirus and died as a result, citing privacy laws.

The agency has insisted on keeping the facility names confidential even as officials in other states — including California, Colorado and Washington — have provided the names and locations of long-term care facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

State health officials face growing pressure to release the information as both the number of confirmed cases and fatalities accelerate in senior care facilities, which have scrambled to quarantine infected residents in an effort to contain the virus’ spread. So far, 11 of the 17 fatalities from the coronavirus in Minnesota have occurred among residents in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Statewide, 38 residents and 22 staff of long-term care facilities have been infected with the coronavirus — exceeding any other setting. One facility, which has not been identified, has six confirmed cases, state officials said.

The stance of not disclosing this critical information rests, in my opinion, on the thinnest of grounds with respect to privacy. To cite “privacy” with a broad brush would seem to give facilities cover, as they decide how to contain PR fallout from disclosing such information. It seems as though the more appropriate strategy would be for the affected SNFs to publicize this information, while also publicizing the efforts they are utilizing to contain the spread of COVID-19. This would protect the greater population, for obvious reasons. It is critical information, and withholding it does not seem prudent.

Michael L. Douglas @doctorpundit

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