25 Investigates: After multiple calls for transparency, Mass. updating nursing home COVID data

After weeks of calls for transparency, Massachusetts is now releasing more information about COVID-19-related deaths inside nursing homes.

25 Investigates has been reporting about the vague information on the state’s dashboard that many families and workers say, has left them in the dark.

"The administration knew this information. They knew how many outbreaks there were in nursing facilities across the state, and they didn't send the kind of help that we were asking for, for at least a couple of weeks," Democrat and State Senator Pat Jehlen of Somerville said.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health also did not share some key information it had about COVID-19 outbreaks inside nursing homes with the public.

As 25 Investigates first reported in early May, positive cases at individual facilities were presented in ranges, between 10-30 or less than 10 or more than 30. Deaths of residents were combined into a single total number. Exact numbers of deaths were not reported by individual homes.

“It's extremely vague. You can see that, for example, in my district there's a nursing facility where it says, ‘well, there's more than 30 cases of infection.’ There's more than 55 deaths in that one facility," Jehlen said.

Related: 25 Investigates: State’s official COVID-19 death toll at nursing homes may not tell full story inside some facilities

When asked why the information is not available, Jehlen said the only reason she had been given was ‘privacy.’ Jehlen is now among those supporting legislation that would require the state to not only collect that information, but also publicly report the data.

As of this week, the federal government is also now requiring the same data reporting. Jehlen believes support for the state legislation and those new federal requirements prompted the major change to reporting in Massachusetts.

Boston 25 News checked the state’s data and, for the first time, deaths are now reported by individual home. Cases, however, remain in ranges.

Another change, nursing home data has been removed from the DPH’s daily updated dashboard and moved to one that’s updated every Wednesday.

It’s a change many relatives of nursing home residents have been begging for.

“Not that it’s going to bring my mother or anyone else back,” said Patricia Odnak, who lost her mother to COVID-19 on Easter after contracting the virus at a Weymouth nursing home. “But it would allow families to understand and maybe make an informed decision going forward about how some of these places are handling this."

A spokesperson for the Department of Public Health told 25 Investigates that what was published Wednesday will be expanded upon in the coming reports.

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