ABC57 Interviews the St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Dr. Mark Fox spoke with ABC57 on Monday about the new cases of COVID-19 at a St. Joseph County long-term care facility and the precautions being taken to ensure the safety Michiana residents.
Transcript of Interview:
We’re learning about several more deaths across Michiana from COVID-19 tonight: three of them in Berrien County – all at a nursing home in Benton Harbor. There was one in Starke County and another one in St. Joseph County, Indiana, with officials confirming the latest death was also a resident in a long term care facility.
We are now joined live by Dr. Mark Fox. Nursing homes, long-term care facilities – we knew that that was a danger and now it’s starting to happen, Dr. Fox.
Dr. Mark Fox:
Our concern from the very beginning was how do we keep this virus out of a congregate living setting, whether it’s a nursing home, a jail, a homeless shelter, a dormitory – any of those settings pose some risk. While there have been a small handful of cases in congregate living settings like that, there was a case from a long-term care facility that was diagnosed late last week, two additional cases presented to the hospital yesterday, who both ultimately tested positive. One of those individuals died, representing the fourth death in the county, but seeing that cluster from one facility prompted additional testing of resident of that facility, and so we now we have identified an outbreak with actually 29 individuals all testing positive.
Are you naming that facility, or are you not doing that to maintain some type of privacy? We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls and emails from people inside these facilities, whether they are workers or maybe they’re family members of residents – can you tell us where this was exactly?
At this point, no, we’re just saying that it’s a facility in St. Joseph County, because the facility is working through its process to notify the family members and then ultimately we anticipate that this will be disclosed publicly but until they go through that notification process, we are withholding that information.
Tell me about precautions that would be taken. Are employees told about this kind of thing, are family members told about this kind of thing as it unfolds? How does that work?
Several precautions have been in place for the last month, and generally there’s been no visitations in nursing homes, and employees have been screened for symptoms, so anyone coming into the facility — employees coming into work — have been screened for symptoms. So the facilities have been going through these steps to protect their whole environment. Once a case is identified, and certainly in the case of this one facility, we’re trying to get all the residents tested, trying to get all the employees tested, and then also the families of the patients notified as well.
The State of Indiana has established what they call “strike teams” to go to long-term care facilities. Is one of the State’s strike teams at the facility?
They are not at this facility. They tend to only focus on symptomatic individuals. So they’ll come in and test what in our view was really too small of a handful of patients. We wanted every patient in the facility tested, and so we decided to essentially do our own strike team assessment so that we can ensure that every patient, and ideally every employee, will be tested.