Death toll rises to 295 in Georgia’s nursing homes, senior care centers

Family members hold photographs of Nancy Finney, who they say died of COVID-19 while living at Arbor Terrace at Cascade retirement community at a recent press conference. The assisted living facility in Atlanta has been one of the hardest hit senior care homes in Georgia with 15 deaths registered. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Family members hold photographs of Nancy Finney, who they say died of COVID-19 while living at Arbor Terrace at Cascade retirement community at a recent press conference. The assisted living facility in Atlanta has been one of the hardest hit senior care homes in Georgia with 15 deaths registered. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Georgia saw a dramatic jump over the weekend in the number of residents who died in nursing homes and large senior care facilities with these vulnerable populations accounting for a significant portion of the state’s overall coronavirus deaths.

The latest state figures released Monday evening revealed 45 additional long-term care deaths since Friday from COVID-19 with the total number of resident deaths in these facilities now at 295.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

Long-term care facilities must report cases of coronavirus and deaths daily to the Department of Community Health and the figures represent close to “real time” information.

The state’s overall count of deaths is 774, but those figures are delayed by the state Department of Public Health’s verification process so some of the deaths in long-term care facilities are likely not yet included in that total.

The total number of facilities that have had outbreaks jumped to 257 from 230 on Friday.

The facility with the most coronavirus deaths is the one that had the first big outbreak, PruittHealth-Palmyra in Albany, where 16 residents have died. The second-highest number of deaths was 15 in Atlanta at Arbor Terrace at Cascade, an assisted living facility.

The list released by the Department of Community Health includes all nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care homes with 25 beds or more. The information is current as of Monday afternoon, according to DCH.

The total number of long-term care residents who’ve tested positive increased to 1929, an increase of 265 from Friday’s report. Staffing have also faced significant infections and that number keeps rising. Currently there are 966 confirmed staff cases of COVID-19.

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» MORE: State provides first accounting of outbreaks in senior care facilities

While PruittHealth-Palmyra had the greatest number of residents who had tested positive at 107. It was followed by Windermere Health and Rehabilitation in Augusta with 75 residents who have tested positive and PruittHealth-Macon which has 72.

The report released by DCH Friday is a significant improvement in the state’s accounting for outbreaks in long-term care facilities. The state is now getting daily updates from hundreds of facilities across Georgia. The previous counting system by the Department of Public Health had lags in data that made it difficult for state health officials and the public to keep up with the fast-moving spread of the virus among the state’s most vulnerable population.

The Trump administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced on Sunday new reporting requirements for nursing homes to help track the virus. The new rules will require facilities to notify residents and their families when outbreaks occur.

For more than a month, many families in Georgia and across the country have worried about their loved ones in long-term care facilities. They have not been able to visit the facilities and have largely been reliant on the homes to notify them of the conditions and outbreaks.

Georgia first started publicly reporting names of facilities with outbreaks on April 3. That list by the Department of Public Health contained 47 facilities.