State reports a dramatic uptick in COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities

NOW: State reports a dramatic uptick in COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities

MADISON, Wis (CBS 58) -- The state is now reporting a dramatic shift in the number of COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities, according to Wisconsin's data tracker.  

The state is now linking 45% of all COVID-19 deaths to long-term care facilities after months of staying steady at 26%. This resulted in a shift of about 1,000 deaths being reported at these facilities, which group together nursing homes and assisted living centers. 

State health officials said at times information they received from local health departments was incomplete, such as an address was missing to where a death occurred, resulting in many deaths unaccounted for. 

“It was common for some fields to be left empty or boxes to be unchecked due to the inability of the disease investigator who conducted the interview to collect that particular information,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. “This is why we had such a high percentage of unknowns when reporting cases or deaths.”

This means for months the state was not reporting an accurate picture of the severity of the virus at facilities who care for the most vulnerable population. 

Still more than 1,719 people who died from COVID-19 are left in the “unknown” category and Willems Van Dijk said they don’t anticipate being able to determine what type of care facilities to link those deaths to. 

“I don’t anticipate it will be further reduced unless we come up with another creative idea on how to match for some other type of housing,” she said. 

The state is reporting 2,935 COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities as of Thursday, March 18, an uptick from 1,956 reported weeks ago. 

State health officials in the past few weeks have also been revising their COVID-19 testing data due to false positives from rapid antigen tests. 

Herd Immunity Possible by July 

As long as the state continues to see a steady supply of coronavirus vaccines, Wisconsin could reach herd immunity by July, according to state health officials. 

Herd immunity is 80% of those ages 16 and up, a goal that could result in people getting back to the way things were before the pandemic.  

“Wouldn’t that be a wonderful 4th of July celebration, to hit 80% community immunity in the state of Wisconsin?” said Willems Van Dijk said.

Some other health experts anticipate herd immunity won’t occur until 90% of the population is vaccinated.

Share this article: