With coronavirus cases and deaths multiplying daily, nursing homes and assisted living facilities face special challenges in protecting their uniquely vulnerable residents and the people who care for them.
“Because we’re dealing with older patients, many of whom have underlying diseases, we are going to see more severe illness from coronavirus and we are going to see deaths,” said Dr. Glen Solomon, chairman of the department of internal medicine at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. “The problem with the nursing homes and the coronavirus is that the people who are most likely to get very sick are the people with underlying illnesses and diseases.”
On March 18 local health officials announced Koester Pavilion in Troy had Ohio’s first confirmed cases in a nursing home of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Both staff and residents were infected and the outbreak spread to SpringMeade Health Center in Tipp City, another Premier Health-owned nursing home that shared a now-infected staff member with Koester.
Three Koester residents and one SpringMeade resident with COVID-19 have died.
The disease’s first U.S. epicenter was the Life Care Center, a Kirkland, Washington, nursing home where 35 residents infected with COVID-19 have died since late February. Coronavirus cases have been reported in 147 nursing homes across 27 states, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said on March 23.
Citing privacy rules, Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Melanie Amato declined to provide tallies or other information about other nursing home outbreaks in Ohio. Media outlets are reporting confirmed cases in nursing homes in Cuyahoga, Summit and Franklin counties.
Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, said he has had to rely on media reports to know where COVID-19 is surfacing at the state’s long-term care facilities. He is frustrated that there is no centralized public reporting for that data for him to share with the group’s more than 1,000 members, which include providers of skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities and agencies that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, deliver home care or provide hospice care.
“Skilled nursing facilities and assisted living both are populated by a large number of people who are living close together and, more importantly, are medically compromised. And they are elderly. All of those things make them particularly vulnerable due to COVID-19,” Van Runkle said.
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