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Why aren’t we asking about why people are dying in long-term care facilities?

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Long-term care facilities are accounting for just under 60 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in Virginia. This among a population that represents just over 1 percent of the state’s 8.6 million residents.

You’d think this would be something that the news media would be asking Gov. Ralph Northam to address.

It’s not like Northam is under lockdown (!) or anything.

No, to his credit, the guy is out front and center several times a week, taking questions in front of TV cameras and the world at large on his handling of the public health emergency.

Which is largely an emergency in our long-term care facilities, at least in terms of the bottom-line impact.

We have to use back-of-the-envelope math here to get a handle on the full extent, because we don’t know what the public health team advising the governor is assuming as far as the incidence of infection.

We know that the Virginia Department of Health is telling us today that we have 26,746 confirmed cases.

We also know that the early models used by the governor’s office assumed seven infections for every confirmed case.

We happen to have two of the nation’s leading research hospitals within our borders, but we still don’t have publicly available information on how much of the population has been exposed to COVID-19.

Specifics would be nice, given … everything.

New York knows. California knows. Several other states know.

We don’t know.

So, we’ll go with the 7:1 ratio, which is a conservative best guess.

The infection fatality rate in long-term care facilities based on that number comes out to an alarming 2.0 percent, based on today’s VDH numbers.

You also get an IFR in the general population of .23 percent – roughly a tenth of what we’re seeing in long-term care facilities.

The last number there, the IFR among the 99 percent of us not in long-term care, could seem to suggest that, if we could figure out what we’re doing wrong in long-term care facilities, maybe we could ease up the throttle on the lockdowns everywhere else, and things are certainly trending in that direction.

The media clickbait obsession with the overall death toll, though, is putting a brake on the pace of the easing.

It’s not as if we don’t have the numbers in front of us, basically smacking us upside the head, telling us that there’s something going on in long-term care facilities, that there are people dying there, that whatever is being done to address why people are dying there, and it doesn’t seem like much, isn’t working.

This isn’t Northam’s fault, it’s not necessarily anybody’s fault.

COVID-19 seems to be most potent when its victims are older, immunocompromised, inactive, in congregate settings with others who are in similar situations.

But still, we’re two months into this.

Northam is a doctor. He has a team of advisors with deep backgrounds in medicine, in public health.

What are they doing, what are they hearing, what do they know, what do they think – anything – about what we need to do?

Again, we press for answers here, we get the ball rolling, get people moving toward a solution, and maybe we can then begin to focus more of our attention on the economic disaster that we’ve created for ourselves the past several weeks.

This, on top of, you know, grandmas and grandpas not continuing to be in the line of fire.

This is where you get frustrated with the media.

You don’t get questions and follow-ups on what is being done to address the 60 percent of deaths among a most vulnerable 1 percent of our population.

The media focus in Virginia is on a state law that Northam and his team interprets as giving them the ability to withhold the names of the long-term care facilities experiencing outbreaks.

Ample ink and bits of data in cyberspace has been committed to this controversy.

As the death toll in our long-term care facilities continues to rage, and as our economic situation continues to worsen, exponentially.

The push isn’t to stop people in long-term care facilities from dying; our news media just wants to know the names of the facilities.

You know, more clickbait.

Holy hell.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press