Local facility sees increase as nation struggles to contain nursing home outbreaks

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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Nearly two weeks after the White House urged governors to ensure that every nursing home resident and staff member be tested for the coronavirus, a Troy facility has reported an additional six cases of COVID-19.

Warren Kelly, CEO of Troy Health and Rehabilitation, said Tuesday the center tested every resident in one unit after an individual in that unit tested positive for COVID-19 on May 21.

“Six of the 16 residents tested positive … on May 24,” he said Tuesday. “The residents that tested positive are in isolation and receiving appropriate medical care.”

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The unit, which houses a total of 16 residents and will remain in isolation until all residents are negative for COVID-19, he added.

A total of eight residents and one employee have now tested positive at the facility. One resident tested positive on April 6 and was isolated before recovering. The second resident tested positive on May 21. A nursing employee also tested positive and has been away from the facility since May 17. “She is also receiving medical care for the virus,” Kelly said.

At Noble Manor, no residents have tested positive although one employee tested positive in April.

Kelly said facility is working to contain the virus. “The staff assigned to that specific unit will remain solely on that unit for the entire shift,” he said. “This will remain in place until all residents of the unit are negative for COVID-19.”

Troy Health and Rehab isn’t alone in coping with COVID-19 among its residents.

In Butler County, 93 residents and staff members tested positive at the Crowne Health Care facility in Greenville tested positive, and at least eight have died.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, more than 1,415 long-term care residents and 890 long-term care employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

“The residents in these facilities certainly are more susceptible to contracting this,” said Herb Reeves, Pike County EMA director.

Dale Law, owner of Noble Manor, said the residents “know and understand the seriousness of the virus and that their age group is most at risk … their age and wisdom has taught them to be patient, understanding and trusting in those who know more.”

At Noble Manor, residents continue to remain in their rooms during the day and for meals, exercising in the hallway. “They know what is being done is being done for their benefit,” she said.

Nursing homes residents, who are typically older and often have underlying medical conditions, have been particularly hard hit by the virus. More than 36,000 residents and staff have died from outbreaks at the nation’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to an AP tally. . That is more than a third of all deaths in the U.S. that have been attributed to the virus.

On May 11, in a conference call with governors, Vice President Mike Pence and adviser Dr. Deborah Brix requested that each state target nursing homes to help lower the virus’ death toll by testing all residents and staff within 14 days.

A review by The Associated Press found that at least half of the states are not going to meet White House’s deadline and some aren’t even bothering to try.

Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris said meeting the White House’s recommendation would mean testing 50,000 people in two weeks when it took three months for the state to test 150,000 people.

“It’s just not possible,” he said.

Many states said the logistics, costs and manpower needs are too great to test all residents and staff in a two-week window. Some say they need another week or so, while others say they need much more time. California, the most populous state, said it is still working to release a plan that would ensure testing capacity for all residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities statewide.

And still other states are questioning whether testing every nursing home resident and staff, regardless of any other factors, is a good use of time and money.

Nursing home operators have said the lack of testing kits and other resources have left them nearly powerless to stop the virus from entering their facilities because they haven’t been able to identity silent spreaders not showing symptoms.

The American Health Care Association, the main nursing home trade group, said more than half of its members said they were unable to test all residents and staff within two weeks because of a lack of access to testing. The group also estimates that testing every nursing home resident and staff member would involving testing nearly 3 million people at a cost of $440 million.

Even with the tests, nursing homes struggle to find people to administer them and carve out enough time to perform them.