Indiana long term care facilities battle increase of COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — As Indiana sees more COVID-19 cases, long-term care facilities are battling an increase as well, with some centers reporting more than 70% of their residents are positive for the virus.

Roughly 55% of COVID-19 deaths in Indiana are attributed to residents of long-term care facilities. According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, positive cases inside these centers began trending down in May and into the summer, but now the trend is going in the wrong direction.

This concerning uptick in COVID-19 cases inside long-term care facilities does not surprise Zach Cattell, president of the Indiana Health Care Association. IHCA is the group that represents these centers.

“We see COVID spread happen in long-term care communities when there is spread taking place in the community,” Cattell said.

The only county in “red” on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard on Monday was Pike County. According to Trilogy Health Services, the company who operates Amber Manor Care Center in Pike County, 75% of residents were positive for COVID-19 on Monday, and 30% of employees also had coronavirus.

Over in Logansport, Trilogy Health Services said 45 out of 64 residents at WoodBridge Health Campus were COVID-19 positive.

A spokesperson for Trilogy Health Services said they are in frequent communication with local health departments and the Indiana State Department of Health as they follow applicable federal, state and local public health guidelines.

Per state and local guidance, the spokesperson said they have suspended visits at Amber Manor Care Center and WoodBridge Health Campus, with the exception of those whose loved ones are receiving end-of-life care. They have also suspended admissions to these campuses. The facilities are also increasing the frequency at which they test employees and residents for COVID-19.

“We remain wholly committed to caring for and supporting our country’s most vulnerable population. Our campus teams will continue to work tirelessly to provide excellent clinical care and to treat every resident who calls our communities home with the utmost compassion during these difficult times,” said Brittany Hanson, director of communications for Trilogy Health Services.

The state’s dashboard for long-term care shows a snapshot of COVID-19 cases impacting this vulnerable population. On September 10, the 7-day moving average for positive cases among residents was 24. It jumped to 57 on September 30.

The trend is going up for cases among long-term care staff too. On September 10, the dashboard showed the 7-day moving average for staff was 22 positive cases. It was 41 on September 30.

“We have facilities that are hiring more nurses to specifically be additional infection control supports,” said Cattell.

IHCA said facilities are also developing new screening tools for staff and visitors.

The Indiana State Department of Health said they know that as cases rise in a community, chances of an outbreak in a facility also rise. A spokesperson for ISDH said the department’s epidemiologists will continue to identify the root causes of outbreaks in facilities with the goal of preventing future outbreaks in that or other facilities.

As of last week, ISDH had completed 4,465 visits to nursing homes and residential care facilities and had completed 1,270 infection control surveys and has cited facilities for infection control issues 184 times.

The state will be visiting every facility they have not been to in the last two weeks and conduct infection control surveys by the end of October. State health officials said they will place additional focus on screening of employees, mask use, proper cohorting, proper use of PPE and visitation practices.   

Eight months into the pandemic, Cattell believes they are definitely in a better position now to fight this deadly virus.

“But it is still not a ubiquitous situation across the state. We still have facilities that have a shortage of N95 masks, and so getting that supply constant is important,” he said.

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