by Terry Rogers
Recently, the Milford Center of Genesis Healthcare reported that 61 residents and 13 staff have tested presumed positive for COVID-19. The center also reported that 14 residents have died of the illness while about half of those who tested positive are asymptomatic and stable.
“All deaths were individuals who were medically compromised prior to contacting the virus. As of April 6, all symptomatic residents have been tested by DPH.”
According to DPH, the facility is classifying residents as positive or presumed positive if the resident or staff member has one of a list of 17 symptoms that have been linked with COVID-19. These include fever, diarrhea and runny nose.
“As you can imagine, without confirmation by testing, these are generic symptoms that overlap with many conditions besides COVID-19,” stated DPH. “Additionally, since March, 13 employees tested positive. There are still eight pending results and 16 employees have gone out on sick leave with symptoms that were not tested and given notes by their primary care physicians to remain off duty for 14 days. Many of these employees have returned to work.”
Dr. Richard Feifer, Chief Medical Officer, of Genesis Healthcare, said 57 percent of the residents who tested positive for the virus were asymptomatic. Since it is believed the virus can be transmitted even by those who do not have symptoms, Feifer explained that Genesis has been stringent with visitation restrictions while also taking additional precautions. He stated that the Milford Center has adopted even more stringent infection precautions that called for by the CDC as well as Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“For the past several weeks, LTC [long-term care] staff has been engaged with this facility by providing on-site education regarding COVID-19, infection prevention and control, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) us, quarantine and isolation,” DPH stated. “The LTC staff have also made almost daily phone calls to the facility to assess their situation and see if they have any needs. DPH will be sending a team into the facility this week to test their presumptive positive resident cases and to assess the facility’s infection prevention protocols. If we receive notice that the facilities are not following guidance, the Division of Health Care quality (DHCQ) will investigate and educate as part of their licensing authority.”
In an effort to reduce the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, Governor John Carney issued the eleventh modification of his State of Emergency Order.
“In elderly populations, and especially Delawareans in long-term care facilities, are at very high risk for COVID-19 infection and hospitalization,” Governor Carney said. “These stricter measures that we’re issuing today are intended to save lives.”
The updated order requires all long-term health facilities to establish a cohort of staff who are assigned to care for known or suspected COVID-19 residents. They must also designate a room, unit or floor of the facility as a separate observation area where newly admitted and re-admitted residents are kept for 14 days while being observed every shift for signs and symptoms. A room, unit or floor must also be designated for known or suspected COVID-19 residents. Any resident who is taken to a hospital must be allowed to return to the facility as long as that facility follows approved DPH measures. The facility cannot require a negative COVID-19 test in order to allow a resident who has been temporarily moved to another facility, including hospitals, to return to their home facility.
Governor Carney also identified Governor Bacon Health Center as a non-acute alternate care site for patients who are discharged from the hospital, have daily living or activity needs and are unable to return to their homes or long-term care facility due to caregiver or staffing changes.
“COVID-19 is an unprecedented situation that many families are dealing with right now,” Feifer said. “No one ever thought their elders would ever have to deal with a worldwide pandemic. We are not the only ones faced with dealing how the virus is affecting our vulnerable population. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by COVID-19 during this difficult time, especially the 12 residents who have passed away. I can assure you that we are working around the clock to keep our patients and residents as healthy and safe as possible.”
DPH echoed the sentiments of Feifer.“Please know that ensuring the health and safety of our most vulnerable residents, particularly those in long-term care facilities, is a top priority of the department. We very much value the General Assembly’s assistance and partnership with us as we address this crisis.”
Governor Carney encouraged Delaware residents continue social distancing practices in order to protect others.
“All Delawareans should do their part to protect their neighbors, friends and family members, especially those who are immunocompromised,” Governor Carney said. “We know the weather is getting nicer. But continue to stay at home. Don’t go out in public unnecessarily. You’ll only increase the risk for everyone. We’ll get through this, but we need to keep working together.”