New data shows very few transfers of COVID-positive patients from hospitals to nursing homes during early stages of pandemic

Since news broke earlier this year that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration manipulated nursing home death data, there have been several inaccurate stories circulating on social media that attempt to draw parallels between his decisions in the early stages of the pandemic and those of Gov. Jay Inslee.

DSHS regulates the state’s more than 4,000 long-term care facilities, including 205 nursing homes, and has worked closely with the governor on decisions about admission of new residents, visitation and infection control throughout the crisis. Unlike New York and other states, the governor never forced nursing homes in Washington state to take COVID-positive patients from hospitals. The vast majority elected not to. In fact, most facilities required two negative COVID tests before admitting a new resident.

DSHS has analyzed the data from the first two months of the pandemic, March and April 2020, and found that only 33 out of more than 6,400 patients transferred from acute care hospitals to nursing homes during that timeframe had tested positive for the coronavirus within 14 days of their transfer.

Beginning last May, DSHS worked with several nursing homes to open COVID-19 units at facilities throughout the state. The COVID-only wings are cordoned off from the rest of the facilities and have their own entrances and dedicated staff. COVID-positive residents are moved there after discharging from the hospital or transferring from another long-term care facility. Once a resident has recovered and has two negative COVID-19 tests over a period of at least two weeks, they return to their original long-term care facility or other residential setting of their choice. More than 400 COVID-positive patients have been transferred from hospitals to these units since they opened.