COVID-19 positive staff return to work at Marion long term care facility to care for virus residents

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MARION, Ind. – A long term care facility in Marion is asking some COVID-19 positive employees to come back to work to care for residents with the virus. Only people who are asymptomatic can return, according to the facility. 

As of Thursday, more than 40 residents at Colonial Oaks Health and Rehabilitation Center had tested positive for COVID-19. Many residents are asymptomatic. Dozens more tested negative for COVID-19.

33 residents who tested positive are residing at the facility on the COVID-19 Isolation Unit and one was discharged to the hospital, said the facility.

As of Thursday, seven residents had passed away due to coronavirus complications. 

The virus is taking a toll on staff too. The facility explained 33 employees have also tested positive for COVID-19.

“Yes, we did have a staffing crisis at that point,” said Cullen Gibson, VP of Operations.

Most employees are in quarantine, but some have returned to work. Gibson said the center asked asymptomatic COVID-19 positive employees if they wanted to come back to work. Gibson said seven took up on the offer and stressed they are only working in the Isolation Unit. 

“They can’t come out of there,” Gibson, said. “There isn’t an entrance into the main part of the facility. They only work back there.”

Colonial Oaks Health and Rehabilitation Center said the unit has a separate entrance and exit for employees who work on the unit caring for COVID-19 positive residents. Gibson said all employees working the unit are permanently assigned and do not work anywhere else within the facility. 

If those employees do not go to other parts of the campus, Grant County Health Department tells me it is not concerned either. 

“They care about those residents,” Gibson said. “They want to be there with their other coworkers caring for them.”

Kate Lyon’s father, Tim Rush, is one of the residents at Colonial Oaks. Rush had a stroke a few years ago when he was only 49 years old.

Lyons feels informed about what is going on behind those doors. 

“The communication has been excellent. I have been really impressed with Colonial Oaks,” she said. 

Her dad was tested for COVID-19 and she said his results came back negative. Lyons supports the idea of some COVID-19 positive employees returning to work. She’s encouraged by staff willing to still help residents. 

“If it is really affective maybe it is something other nursing homes can take on as well,” she said.

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