The state announced Friday that 60 residents of nursing homes and other long-term senior care facilities have died of the novel coronavirus, but in a reversal of previous practice said it would no longer publish a list of such facilities identified as clusters of the contagion.
Instead, the state Department of Health said it would begin publishing a tally of homes where there are confirmed cases, residents who had tested positive and the number who have died.
On Friday, state officials said that 261 residents in 61 separate nursing facilities have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory infection. Sixty have perished from complications related to the disease.
The number of deaths highlights the danger the virus presents to the elderly and frail, who have a much higher mortality rate than the general population at large.
The nursing home deaths also represent about 16% of Louisiana’s total, which is to be expected, said Hugh Long, a professor of health policy and management at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Residents in Louisiana’s senior care facilities typically have underlying health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and other problems, he said. Those conditions make them especially vulnerable.
Nearly 2,500 long-term care facilities in 36 states are battling coronavirus cases, according to data gathered by NBC News from state agencies, an explosive increase of 522 percent compared to a federal tally just 10 days ago.
The total dwarfs the last federal estimate on March 30 — based on “informal outreach” to state health departments — that more than 400 nursing homes had at least one case of the virus.
The full scale of the virus’ impact is even greater than NBC News’ tally, as key states including Florida did not provide data, and nursing homes across the United States are still struggling for access to testing.