Wisconsin health officials make shocking, last-minute update to COVID-19 death toll in nursing homes

New York appears to not be the only state having issues with properly reporting COVID-19 deaths as they relate to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

According to the Washington Examiner, health officials in Wisconsin were recently forced to update reports concerning 1,000 COVID-19 deaths that were originally classified as “unknown,” changing the classification to reflect that those deaths did, in fact, occur in nursing home facilities, which raised the state’s number of deaths in those types of settings significantly. 

Previously, officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services linked nursing homes and long-term care facilities to roughly 30% of COVID-19 deaths in the state. With the new data, which was adjusted over the past two weeks, that number rose to 45%, which raised immediate questions by some who alleged that there could have been political agendas tied to the underreporting.

A health department official defended the recent update, saying “We came up with the solution to pull an address list of long-term care facilities from the regulators and match those addresses against the patient address for records with “unknowns” for group housing, for patients who died of COVID-19.”

Prior to the update, state health officials came under fire from Republicans as the state’s numbers were curiously lower than neighboring states, which at the time prompted some Republicans to call into question the accuracy of the state’s official reporting. As it turns out, those suspicions were justified.

“The Evers administration severely undercounted COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities, making their response to COVID-19 appear much better than it was,” a Wisconsin Republican operative reportedly said.

Some experts, like David Grabowski, a professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, slammed the state’s convenient, last-minute update.

“This is not something that you should have to go back and correct after the fact,” Grabowski told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Only time will tell if there was any intentional underreporting of the numbers in Wisconsin like what happened in New York, but at least now there will be more eyes on the issue to make sure state government officials are as transparent as possible.