Four residents of a Westminster nursing home have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to a corporate spokesperson.
Of the facility’s 116 residents, four have tested positive and 20 more are in isolation, according to spokesperson Fred Stratmann. Those in isolation are either new admissions or are considered at risk because they are showing symptoms or were potentially exposed to a case, he said.
Stratmann said his earlier statement, that there were 16 cases presumed to be positive in addition to the four confirmed ones, was incorrect.
One resident has been hospitalized, he said. There have been no deaths as of April 14.
“We’re still treating them as if they are positive,” he said Tuesday.
Just before 5 p.m. Tuesday the Carroll County Health Department announced only two new confirmed cases countywide but one more death. As of April 14 there have been 252 confirmed cases and 31 deaths, with 149 cases and 27 deaths coming from long-term care facilities. The death announced Tuesday was a community member not connected to such a facility.
Of the 103 cases not at a long-term care facility, 48 are women and 55 are men, while two are between the ages of 10 and 19; 20 are between ages 20 and 29; eight are between ages 30 and 39; 15 between ages 40 and 49; 37 between ages 50 and 59; 11 between ages 60 and 69; six between ages 70 and 79; and four between ages 80 and 89.
Westminster Healthcare Center, part of CommuniCare Family of Companies, learned of its first case April 3, Stratmann said. The company is based in Cincinnati and has 90 nursing homes in seven states, with 18 facilities in Maryland.
The positive and at-risk residents are being kept separate from other residents, Stratmann said, and staff dedicated to caring for the residents in isolation are not caring for other residents, so as not to spread the disease. He said residents and staff are being checked for symptoms daily.
The facility set up a self-contained isolation unit with a double plastic wall and sealed edges, according to Stratmann. There is a decontamination unit for supplies, and personal protective equipment to care for isolated residents is kept inside the isolation zone.
Nursing homes and similar facilities are areas of concern for the spread of the coronavirus because it can be especially dangerous for older adults and those will compromised health.
As of April 14, long-term care facilities have accounted for 27 of 31 deaths from COVID-19 in Carroll County. Of Carroll’s 252 positive tests for the coronavirus, 149 are connected to long-term care facilities. Twenty-four of those who died were residents of Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy, as of April 14.
One of the employees at Pleasant View also worked for CommuniCare Family of Companies, at Hagerstown Healthcare Center, according to Stratmann. That employee was fired from the Hagerstown facility after it was discovered that the employee was dishonest about having a second job at Pleasant View during the pandemic, he said.
Stratmann said the company has not made any decisions on whether to pursue charges against that employee.
Andrea Mack’s father John, 74, is one of the Westminster Healthcare Center residents who tested positive.
He was hospitalized April 10, but his daughter did not know that until April 12. It wasn’t the nursing home that notified her, but a friend who accidentally broke the news, she said.
The friend, who works at Carroll Hospital, asked Mack how her father was doing. From there, Mack made frantic phone calls.
The nursing home told her they lost the living will and medical care power of attorney paperwork that would have ensured Mack received a call when her father was hospitalized. Without it, the hospital refused to talk to her either. Now that Mack has forwarded the paperwork to the hospital and nursing home, she has an idea of her father’s status.
By now, she has learned that he is on a ventilator and is “not doing well."
Stratmann declined to comment on Mack’s situation, saying it would be a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to discuss a resident’s care.
Mack did not know there were COVID-19 cases at the home, nor did she know her father was symptomatic prior to him being hospitalized.
“No one would give me any information," Mack said.
Stratmann said that while it’s the company’s policy for corporate to speak on behalf of the individual nursing homes, he said that how each facility communicated with family of residents was up to each director.
He said family members of positive residents are notified as soon as a test is confirmed.
“The center has also sent two letters to all resident family members on the situation,” Stratmann wrote in an email. “This was done prior to the state’s requirement that all family members be notified within 24 hours of a positive test.”
Kristy Harrison’s father Doug, 74, is another of the other residents with COVID-19. She hasn’t been able to see him in a month, she said.
“I went from every day seeing my father to not at all," Harrison said.
Her father was taken to Carroll Hospital on April 3 after he fell, wasn’t responding and had a high temperature. A hospital staff member told Harrison and her sister to get in touch with hospice because he wasn’t doing well.
Then Harrison learned the hospital was sending her father back to Westminster Healthcare Center. Harrison did not know what the nursing home was doing to protect residents from COVID-19 and she was not informed of any other cases at the facility.
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“For me it’s like pulling teeth trying to find out anything,” Harrison said. “I want to make sure other family members know people have [coronavirus] in there.”
She conceded that staff have a lot on their hands, but wishes they communicated better.
Harrison felt some relief when she was told her father’s nurse at the nursing home volunteered to go into isolation to continue to care for him.
Westminster Healthcare Center implemented prevention protocol March 3 and on March 10 restricted visitors to end-of-life situations, according to Stratmann.
The facility’s prevention plan included: increased cleaning; sending an informational letter to residents, families, health care providers and staff; educating residents; taking the temperature of all visitors, vendors and staff upon entering the facility, and sending those home with a fever; and ordering personal protective equipment.
Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call the Carroll County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline, which is available 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. seven days a week at 410-876-4848, or contact their doctor. After hours, callers may leave a message or call 211. People with emergencies should continue to call 911.