By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Four long-term care facilities in Alexandria have reported COVID-19 cases among residents or staff. In three of the facilities there are outbreaks among residents, while the fourth has reported cases among staff but not residents.
Virginia state code requires certain facilities and programs, including long-term care residences, to report the presence or suspected presence of an illness outbreak to their local health department. According to the Virginia Department of Health, three Alexandria long-term care facilities have reported outbreaks of COVID-19. The VDH does not report names of facilities, just the number of facilities with outbreaks per jurisdiction.
In Alexandria, Hermitage Northern Virginia has publicly reported 12 positive cases of COVID-19. Both Silverado Alexandria and Woodbine Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center have reported that they’ve had positive cases of COVID-19, but declined to share how many. In addition, Goodwin House Alexandria reported that no residents have tested positive for COVID-19, but four employees have.
Of the other major senior living facilities within Alexandria city limits – Annie B. Rose House, Sunrise of Alexandria and Brandywine Living – Brandywine reported that it has not had any cases, Sunrise did not respond to multiple inquiries and the Times could not reach a staff member at Annie B. Rose House.
The VDH defines an outbreak as “the occurrence of more cases of disease than expected.” However, there is no strict definition of an outbreak or specific number of cases that need to occur to be considered an outbreak, according to VDH.
Hermitage confirmed its first positive case on April 8. Since then, 11 more cases have been confirmed. The majority of the cases are residents living in Hermitage’s healthcare center, while one lives in Hermitage’s assisted living facility and is the spouse of one of the infected healthcare residents.
Two residents are hospitalized, and the rest are quarantined at Hermitage. There have been no fatalities to date. Only the residents who are hospitalized are considered “severe” cases, according to Chris Henderson, chief executive officer of Pinnacle Living, the company that manages Hermitage Northern Virginia. The other cases are either mild or asymptomatic.
Hermitage has tested all 24 residents living in the facility’s healthcare center. The 13 residents who tested negative have since been retested, and all of them tested negative a second time, Henderson said.
Silverado administrator Katie Hilburn reported the facility’s first case in a letter to “families and friends” on April 12. Hilburn sent another letter on April 21 reporting that multiple residents had tested positive for COVID-19.
“Moving forward and as I’ve previously reported, we will continue to presume that all residents at Silverado are positive given the endemic nature of this virus in Northern Virginia,” Hilburn wrote in the April 21 letter. “I will personally connect with you if we begin to see any change with your loved one. I want to assure you that we are working closely with the Alexandria Department of Health to mitigate the spread within our community. We are following their directives as well as those of our state licensing and regulatory agency.”
Woodbine reported in an April 22 media statement that it had received several COVID-19 positive diagnoses for both residents and members of its healthcare team. Everyone who tested positive is experiencing mild symptoms, according to the statement.
The residents are isolated at the facility with a dedicated nursing team, while the infected healthcare team members are recovering at home.
“The safety and health of Woodbine residents and team members is our sole concern,” Woodbine administrator Donna Shaw said in the media statement. “We are working closely with local and state health departments and taking guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols to help contain the spread of the virus. As an additional measure, Woodbine has incorporated hydroxyl generators, which create airborne hydroxyl radicals that treat pathogens in both the air and on surfaces.”
At Goodwin House, the first staff member case was reported on April 14, and the other three followed in a seven-day period, according to Lindsay Hutter, chief strategy and marketing officer at Goodwin House Incorporated.
The four employees hadn’t worked at the facility for at least four days before receiving their positive result, Hutter said. All four are currently self-isolating at home.
Hutter said Goodwin House traced the movements of the employees to identify and monitor the residents with whom they had interacted. However, most of them had interacted with few people.
“These employees had minimal interaction with any other staff members, and only had contact with a small number of residents,” Hutter said.
In addition, Hutter said she suspected that the employee cases were not connected.
“These are employees who, for the most part, don’t work together. They work in different parts of the organization, different shifts, so it’s not a matter of employee to employee contagion,” Hutter said.
One problem most senior living facilities are experiencing is having adequate testing kits and personal protective equipment.
“There are a lot people who are saying, ‘Well, senior living organizations and nursing homes should test all their employees and test all their residents,’” Hutter said. “Well, there’s a challenge with that, and there’s a three-legged stool: … First is the availability of testing kits, second is the availability of personal protective equipment for the people administering the test and then the third is the training and the staff capacity to undertake tests.”
Gov. Ralph Northam said during his April 17 press conference that the state would help provide more testing at long-term care facilities experiencing outbreaks.
“We will work to make sure that any nursing home or long-term care facility experiencing a breakout can test every resident in the facility, as well as the staff,” Northam said. “I’m grateful to UVA and VCU for partnering with us to do these tests for facilities, as resources allow. The state lab will also help provide testing supplies.”
(Read more: Protecting Alexandria seniors during the COVID-19 outbreak)