Nursing homes in Vance County see spike in COVID-19 cases

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HENDERSON, N.C. (WNCN) — Two nursing homes in Vance County are seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, according to numbers provided by state officials Friday.

Signs that read ‘Heroes Work Here’ are what currently greet the staff at Pelican Health Henderson.

“It’s scary to think they’re having to go and work there every day with the cases climbing, so I hope they all stay safe,” said Casey Teague who lives near the facility in Henderson.

This week, the number of COVID-19 cases reported at the nursing home more than doubled.

On Friday, the state said the facility was up to 70 cases and seven deaths.

“That’s kind of terrifying,” said Matthew Jankowski who lives near the facility.

He said he worries for the vulnerable population that lives there.

“There’s nothing I can do to help them. The only thing I can do is stay here with my kids and put a mask on whenever I leave, which is very rare,” said Jankowski.

A five-minute drive down the road, COVID-19 cases are also on the rise at Kerr Lake Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Henderson.

On Tuesday, the state reported four cases at Kerr Lake Nursing and Rehab Center. On Friday, 23 cases were reported. Employees make up more than half of them.

State officials are expected to provide another update on Tuesday.

CBS 17 reached out to both Pelican Health Henderson and Kerr Lake Nursing and Rehab Center.
Both said they’d get back to us with more information on the outbreaks.

Kerr Lake Nursing and Rehab Center later sent a statement to CBS 17.

Here is the full statement from Kerr Lake:

Eleven weeks ago, we began working to develop guidelines and protocols in the unfortunate event that the virus became prevalent in our local community, which it has in Vance County. To date, we now have implemented 55 guidelines based on CMS and CDC mandates and recommended best practices. We have spent eleven weeks training all staff members on the guidelines and have been conducting additional monitoring to ensure they are in place. The following proactive steps have been taken:

· Kerr Lake started screening visitors and staff before it was a CMS mandate. We have rigid screening processes that we require all employees to complete with supervision prior to the start of their shift.

· We established routine monitoring for presence of signs and symptoms of the virus in our patients. It is now general knowledge that many people of all ages can have the virus yet remain asymptomatic.

· We partnered with Mother Earth Brewery, in Kinston, NC, over two months ago to produce hand sanitizer specifically for our company.

· In early March we started making home-made masks in Goldsboro, NC and, to date, have produced over 15,000. We hired over 30 individuals to sew, cut and inspect our masks, which are made of polypropylene and cotton with elastic ear loops.

· To supplement our supply of masks, we purchased 3-D printers to manufacture face shields and to date have made close to 1,000.

· In mid-April it became apparent that isolation gowns were becoming difficult to source; therefore, we began producing homemade gowns at our Goldsboro location. To date we have made close to 2,000 gowns.

· Additionally, we have distributed KN- and N-95 masks, currently the gold standard, to all staff. We were forced to pay exorbitant prices for these products, but knew that if we had a positive case of the virus in the building, they would serve as critical protection.

· We have received multiple deliveries of surgical masks and are continuing to source more nationally and internationally.

· We partnered with a laboratory in South Carolina to provide COVID-19 tests that deliver results in 48 to 72 hours versus other testing sites that were taking from 7 to 10 days for results.

· These tests, when we acquired them, provided the quickest results available to nursing homes. We are, however, searching for rapid tests that return results within hours. To date, these rapid tests have not been available to nursing home communities.

· Isolation units, or reverse isolation units, have been identified and are in place in most facilities. These units are built to meet the requirements for mold remediation, an exceptionally high standard. In some cases, we have identified locations on our campuses that have separate mechanical and plumbing systems to allow for further separations.

· Established a COVID-19 Special Care Unit in Wake County and are currently in various phases of opening additional dedicated SCUs throughout the state.

· Knowing how difficult this time is for our residents and family members with the imposition of visitor restrictions over a month ago, we acquired iPads for virtual family visits with our residents and for telemedicine purposes.

· In the unfortunate event the facility has a COVID-19 issue that occurs in, or is associated with, the building, residents, families and staff will be notified as follows:

o A new positive case or three or more presumptive-positive cases,

o Additional new cases of COVID-19, or

o Weekly to update on the status of prior positive or presumptive-positive cases

· Notification letters will be sent out no later than 5:00PM the day after we are notified of the result. Prior to distribution of these letters, we encourage our facility teams to make routine calls to family members during an outbreak.

o After the confirmation of an initial positive employee case at Kerr Lake on May 3, 2020, we proactively initiated 100% testing of all residents and staff that day. All test results are received within 48 to 72 hours of the initial test.

o As of Friday May 8, 2020, the count of positive Kerr Lake residents and staff is consistent with the numbers reported in the NC Department of Health and Human Service’s COVID-19 Ongoing Outbreaks in Congregate Living Settings report.

o As of Friday May 8, 2020, there have been no deaths related to the COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

· Kerr Lake currently has enough PPE to provide care at this time. However, we remain concerned about the national shortage of isolation gowns and have started producing our own gowns at our Goldsboro location.

In this time of a national and global pandemic crisis, we hope that our community will come together to focus on supporting our residents and staff in the days and weeks ahead. While most of the attention to date has been placed on the acute care environment, please remember that the most vulnerable individuals reside in long-term and congregate care settings. Our patients, their families and our employees are heroes working together to overcome the impact of COVID-19. We will continue to work closely with the local and State health departments, and we will make every effort to combat this insidious disease head-on.

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