Positive coronavirus cases seen in three long-term care facilities

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Emails obtained by ABC57 News confirm there are coronavirus cases in multiple South Bend long-term care facilities, leaving many families and even the employees inside very concerned.

Those three locations include Cardinal Nursing Home, St. Mary’s Convent on campus at St. Mary’s University where the retired catholic nuns live and at the Trail Point Village Nursing Home on Ridgedale Road.

Although St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox couldn’t say any specifics on which nursing homes are involved, he did say this was just bound to happen.

“I think the communities that haven’t had an outbreak in some congregate living setting, a jail, a dorm, whatever, has just been lucky this far,” Dr. Fox said. “Isolation and quarantine becomes really challenging when people are living together and with something that is moderately contagious, the risk of it running through a population is pretty significant.”

Especially when workers are free to leave.

“You also have people who leave every day that go home, out of the community and coming back into the facility,” he said.

Dr. Fox said that this is what they prepared for and what they expected to happen at some point.

He got a call on Sunday that there were several patients from one facility showing coronavirus symptoms.

”When it was identified that there were several patients at the same facility, that working with the hospital and the lab group, we were able to mobilize,” he said.

Within hours they tested everyone in that section of the building.

Fox said that as of Tuesday, all the other residents have also been tested.

“We were able to identify it fairly early because the hospital and other people were on the ball and they paid attention to it. So we were able to respond quickly and get people tested so hopefully, we can control the spread even within that facility,” he said.

Dr. Fox said once the health department is notified, testing of virtually all patients and employees gets underway. And there are some major steps facilities should take once there are confirmed coronavirus patients inside.

“As much as possible, they should isolate that individual. Again, most nursing homes won’t have a special isolation facility but really trying to be mindful about who needs to be in that room and that they make sure they always have appropriate PPE when they enter the room,” he said.

Tuesday, Dr. Kristina Box, the Indiana State Health Commissioner issued a new order allowing all nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to move residents who test positive to a dedicated wing of their own facility or to a separate facility for COVID-19 patients.

“I know that the thought of moving residents in an already difficult time is incredibly stressful for families and we’ve made it very clear that families need to be notified about these plans,” Dr. Box said.

And letting all employees and families know what is happening is also essential.

“I think that notification lies with the facility to let families know what’s going on,” she said.

Dr. Fox said that to reduce the spread of the virus, long-care facilities are required to screen employees before they can come into the building, including taking their temperature.

Employees also need to wear masks at all times to avoid any risk of resident exposure.

“All the usual guidance around hand hygiene and cough etiquette but also attention to disinfection protocols. Our environmental health staff has gone out I think to 32 different long-term care facilities in the county to review disinfection protocols and also closing down to visitors,” he said.

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