Should Virginia Share Data on COVID-19 Cases at Nursing Homes?

May 4, 2020

How many cases of Coronavirus are in your neighborhood? Localized data on the pandemic has been difficult to come by.

How many cases of COVID-19 are at your local nursing home? State officials will not release data that details numbers at specific congregate care facilities, which has been frustrating to people like Senator Scott Surovell. He says the section of the code at issue does not prevent the state from releasing a list of every facility in Virginia and how many cases are there.

“The sentence that they’re relying on to say that congregate care facilities cannot release that data I believe applies to scenarios where the Health Department releases data to third parties for the purposes of studies," he explains. "I do not think it applies to what the Health Department can say about congregate care facilities.”

The problem is that the code seems to give facilities the same right to privacy as individuals. 

“But really the law should not have been written that way," says Delegate Patrick Hope. "Privacy is about protecting the individual, not the facility. Some facilities are doing the right thing, and they’re disclosing this information. But most facilities are not doing it, and so if that’s what it takes is for us to change the law I think we should do that.”

Lawmakers are expecting a special session to deal with a budget revenue re-forecast and many lawmakers believe it’ll be an ideal time to make sure the Health Department has the authority to release more information about how many cases are at specific facilities. That’s already the case in many other states.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.