There are now 278 cases of COVID-19 reported in Beaver County and 31 deaths associated with the virus, according to statistics released today by the PA Department of Health (DOH).
Today’s numbers mark a massive surge from just one day ago when the department reported 178 cases and 14 deaths. That equates to an overnight reported increase of 100 cases and 17 deaths.
“This was the Board of Commissioners’ concern on Thursday, the inconsistencies of numbers we were getting from the Department of Health,” Commissioner Chairman Dan Camp told BeaverCountian.com today. “Beaver County is now showing 100 new cases and the Department of Health is showing them all to be associated with nursing homes.”
The DOH is blaming the large increase to delays in reporting caused by things such as “religious holidays.”
BeaverCountian.com published an investigative report on April 14 based on information provided by confidential sources, which suggested the actual number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 was significantly higher than what was being included in statistics provided by DOH. The inconsistencies appeared associated directly with Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, a nursing home in Brighton Township.
BeaverCountian.com’s reporting was highlighted the following day by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
County commissioners subsequently held a press conference on the courthouse steps on April 16, complaining of confusion caused by state agencies and expressing their belief that data being provided by the DOH was severely flawed. Commissioners also expressed frustration about a lack of transparency from Brighton Rehab.
Today’s DOH statistics show a total of 166 of the county’s cases are nursing home residents, with an additional 10 cases being workers at the facilities. The DOH lists 26 deaths associated with nursing homes. A total of three facilities have been impacted by COVID-19, according to the DOH, which does not identify the facilities by name or provide breakdowns.
Rochester Manor & Villa sent BeaverCountian.com a statement on April 8 saying their facility had one resident who tested positive for the virus. Villa St. Joseph issued a statement on April 7 notifying the public of one infected staff member.
Camp told BeaverCountian.com he spoke with Rochester Manor today and the facility confirms it still has one case. Villa St. Joseph issued a statement on April 17 stating they no longer have any positive cases associated with their facility.
Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center has refused to release recent statistics to the press or to county commissioners, and its administration has ignored questions from reporters.
But subtracting numbers provided by Rochester Manor and Villa St. Joseph from the DOH’s totals show Brighton Rehab may have 165 patients who have been infected, 9 infected workers, and 26 deaths from the virus.
This would leave 102 cases and 5 deaths in Beaver County that are not associated with nursing homes.
Beaver County Emergency Services Director Eric Brewer told BeaverCountian.com he believes major problems with the DOH are now being exposed.
“These are the concerns we’ve had because now it looks like it’s all happening overnight. It isn’t,” Brewer said. “This is going to cause unnecessary fear in the public and it shouldn’t.”
DOH communications director April Hutcheson said there are a host of factors that prevent delays in its reporting.
“Some of the lag time we have seen in the last week has been related to the religious holidays from last week,” Hutcheson told BeaverCountian.com.
“The positive case count also depends on when labs are reporting data. Some take 2-3 days to return a test result and some can take up to a week. There are days when all of this information catches up and produces an increase … There can be delays in when information is reported and reconciled. Knowing that there can be single day spikes in reporting of data, we are looking at trends over a period of days to determine what is happening in a particular region.”
Hutcheson acknowledged the significant COVID-19 outbreak at Brighton Rehab.
“We have known that Brighton has had many positive cases at the facility, both confirmed and probable,” she said. “We continue to provide support in infection control, as well as in ensuring patient care continues.”
Brewer is incensed by DOH’s explanations.
“We can’t make good decisions with bad information,” he said. “And they’ve been giving us bad information.”