NEWBURYPORT — On Friday, the Department of Public Health changed how it counts COVID-19 deaths in Massachusetts long-term care facilities, aligning with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's national definition and in the process cutting the state's cumulative long-term care death toll by 1,220.
In its weekly report, DPH began using the federal standard for long-term care deaths, which counts all residents of a facility who died from COVID complications in a facility, hospital or other location, but does not count those who recovered from COVID-19 and later died.
Up to this point, Massachusetts had counted all long-term care residents who contracted the virus at some point before they died — even those who recovered between their bout with the illness and their death — as COVID-19 long-term care deaths.
The new standard mirrors the CDC's recommendation and that in place in most other states, according to the Baker administration.
"By aligning the long-term death count on the state's weekly dashboard with federal definitions for long-term care facilities, Massachusetts is aligning with the definition that other states use," DPH State Epidemiologist Catherine Brown said in a statement. "DPH also believes this definition better supports long-term care facilities now that so many residents and staff are vaccinated to closely monitor the effect of COVID in a well-vaccinated but vulnerable population."
As a result of the change, the cumulative long-term care death toll in Massachusetts will be listed at 5,502 as of April 12, compared to the 6,722 reported as of April 5 in the final weekly report under the previous state standards. The update does not appear to change the overall cumulative COVID-19 death toll in Massachusetts, which increased from 17,427 in Wednesday's daily report to 17,432 in Thursday's.
The DPH revisions did move the needle slightly in reports of deaths and put a more precise number on the total of positive COVID-19 cases in Greater Newburyport long-term care facilities.
Until last week, Port Health Care in Newburyport, a 123-bed facility, had reported nine deaths since the pandemic began, but state numbers revised that down to six. Port Health Care also had been listed as having more than 30 positive COVID-19 cases since last spring, but the change in how the state reports the data said 62 residents tested positive in that time.
Vero/Amesbury, a 203-bed facility, went from a total of 21 deaths of residents to 23. The facility also had been listed until last week as reporting more than 30 positive COVID-19 cases since last spring, but state data on Thursday put the number at 121 cases.
Maplewood Center on Morrill Place, Amesbury, a 120-bed facility, was reported as having five deaths. Previously, the nursing home was reported as being in the range of 1-4 deaths, according to DPH. The revised numbers for Maplewood, which reported more than 30 positive COVID cases, said 48 residents tested positive in the past year.
No deaths have been reported at Brigham Health and Rehabilitation Center on High Street in Newburyport, but new state data said 10 residents tested positive for the coronavirus since last spring, with 1-4 cases recorded in the last 14 days.
The state said Hillside Rest Home in Amesbury, with 28 beds, has not reported any deaths or cases of COVID-19 since last spring. Newburyport Home for Aged Men, a nine-bed facility, had been listed as having 1-10 positive COVID-19 cases in the past year. The new state data put the exact number at nine cases, with 1-4 reported in the last 14 days.
Sea View Nursing Home in Rowley, a 62-bed facility, had been listed as having more than 30 positive cases and 1-4 deaths since the pandemic began. As of Friday, the DPH said Sea View had recorded 33 positive cases, none in the last 14 days.
To read the DPH data: www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-response-reporting.
Daily News editor Richard K. Lodge contributed to this story.