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INDIANAPOLIS — A COVID-19 dashboard by AARP ranks Indiana number one in the country for highest death rate in nursing homes.

The dashboard looks at five categories, including nursing home resident COVID-19 deaths per 100 residents, personal protective equipment, and staffing shortages.

The AARP Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio, created the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard to provide four-week snapshots of the virus’ spread into nursing homes.

According to the website, the goal is to identify “specific areas of concern at the national and state levels in a timely manner.”

As of Monday, Indiana was ranked number one for resident COVID-19 death rate. The chart is a collection of data from the CMS Nursing Home COVID-19 Public File. That file includes data reported by nursing homes to the CDC’s NHSN system.

Nursing homes are required to report COVID-19 deaths to the federal agency.

“You can roughly get an idea of how Indiana compares to these other states,” said Sarah Waddle, state director of AARP Indiana.

The dashboard is updated monthly. It compiled data reported from mid-November to mid-January.

“There still seems to be a gap in what we are doing in Indiana compared to what some other states are doing,” she said.

AARP’s dashboard looks at a period of time when the state hit a peak in nursing home deaths, averaging 52 a day in late December.

“The number one correlation to fatality or COVID-19 deaths in congregate settings, including longterm care facilities, is the community spread,” said Zach Cattell, president of the Indiana Health Care Association.

In early December, Governor Eric Holcomb opened a weekly coronavirus briefing by saying, “The State of Indiana is on fire,” based on the amount of red counties in the state’s color-coded map.

“I just wonder what were other states doing that Indiana was not doing that made us become number one,” said FOX59 reporter Kelly Reinke.

“I am not sure if I can answer that question with a great amount of detail, Kelly,” said Cattell. “I think these are going to be questions public health researchers will really need to dig into in the future.”

According to the dashboard, it appears staffing shortages did not greatly influence the number of deaths in Indiana nursing homes. In fact, AARP says the state is below the national average for that category.

COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline in Indiana nursing homes. The numbers have not been this low since October. IHCA is encouraged the rate of community spread has significantly lowered. The group explained this is contributing to the decline in cases in Indiana’s long-term care facilities.

“It is important to note that COVID-19 outbreaks are not the result of inattentiveness or a shortcoming in LTC facilities.  Long term care professionals continue to comply with state and federal infection control protocols and fearlessly battle the virus and serve their residents,” said the trade association in a statement.