High caseload in Courtland tied to nursing home?

Published 7:39 pm Tuesday, June 23, 2020

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VDH data says yes, CDC says no


The Virginia Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control appear to be having a difference of opinion as to whether a COVID-19 outbreak at a nursing home is responsible for Courtland’s disproportionately high caseload.

As of Tuesday, the VDH is reporting 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 for Courtland’s ZIP code. That’s out of between 4,000 to 5,000 total residents living in and out of the town’s incorporated borders, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Franklin’s ZIP code, by comparison, has 44 confirmed cases and a population over three times that of Courtland’s.

Of these 53 cases, 47 are among residents and staff at Accordius Health, a long-term care facility that up until April was known as Courtland Health & Rehab. That’s according to site-specific outbreak figures the VDH released on Saturday, one day after Gov. Ralph Northam instructed the department to make said data public.

Prior to this, Western Tidewater Health District Director Dr. Todd Wagner had declined on multiple occasions to comment on the number of cases tied to specific facilities. He did, however, concur that Courtland had experienced a relatively large number of cases given its low population density, when contacted by The Tidewater News about the matter last week.

For the week ending June 7, however, Accordius reported only four confirmed cases to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in accordance with a new rule the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid adopted in April, which requires each of the nation’s more than 15,000 nursing homes to disclose their case totals to the CDC. The CMS made this data public in early June.

Of the four cases Accordius reported to the CDC, one has died, and another three are suspected of having the virus but haven’t been tested yet. If Accordius is not the source of Courtland’s high numbers, the question remains, what is?

A similar discrepancy occurs in the data reported for another local nursing home, Consulate Health Care of Windsor in Isle of Wight County. That facility reported 63 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight COVID-19-related deaths to the CDC for the week ending May 31, and no change for the week ending June 7. Yet the VDH’s site-specific data published on Saturday lists only 54 confirmed cases, but the same number of deaths.

Wagner, when asked about the discrepancy in state and federal case totals for these facilities, said the VDH data reports the cumulative number of cases tied to each facility since the pandemic began. The CDC data, on the other hand, is what the facility self-reports to the federal government on a weekly basis. He then referenced a statement published on the VDH website, which reads, “Due to different reporting requirements and case classifications, timelines and other factors, the CMS data will likely be inconsistent with data reported by VDH.”

Gina Williams, Accordius’ administrator, had previously informed the newspaper that as of the last week in May, the facility had not seen any new positive COVID-19 tests for two weeks. As of that week, the VDH was reporting 49 confirmed cases for the 23837 ZIP code, only three of which were tied to Accordius per data the facility had reported to the CDC as of the week ending May 31. The four total cases Accordius reported to the CDC as of June 7 indicate the facility has seen at least one new confirmed case since the start of the month.

The site-specific VDH data, however, lists the outbreak at Accordius as “pending closure.” Outbreaks labeled as such, according to Wagner, are those where at least 28 days have passed without a documented new case. Williams, when contacted on Tuesday, confirmed the Courtland facility had indeed seen one new COVID-19-positive test result on June 4, but could not confirm whether the VDH or CDC cumulative totals were accurate. She added that the facility plans to re-test its residents in July once the next 28-day period has elapsed.

The VDH continues to report a total of eight outbreaks in its Western Tidewater Health District, which includes all of Southampton County, Isle of Wight County and the cities of Franklin and Suffolk. Five of these — with the term “outbreak” defined as two or more cases — are reported to be at long-term care facilities, with the sixth at a correctional facility The Tidewater News identified in April as Deerfield in Capron. The remaining two outbreaks are both tied to congregate facilities, which can refer to apartment complexes, places of employment, churches or other group environments.