LOWVILLE — The announcement of a COVID-19 outbreak in the nursing home at the Lewis County Healthcare System’s main campus was made quietly at a county legislative meeting last week. But now, system leadership has announced that coronavirus statistics for both the residential facility and the hospital will be updated daily on the system’s website.
By Tuesday afternoon, 18 of the 126 nursing home residents and 13 staff members had tested positive for the virus, according to a news release.
In the Nov. 17 health and human services committee meeting, Health System Chief Executive Officer Gerald R. Cayer announced 10 of the 131 residents at the residential facility and nine staff members had tested positive.
The outbreak has been, to date, contained on the second floor where a COVID-dedicated area has been established.
While the medical-surgical floor of the hospital — known as the med-surge unit — has had nine people admitted for the disease, Mr. Cayer said in an interview there is no need to create a separate area for COVID-19 patients on or near the unit due to differences in the way hospitals and nursing homes are set up.
“They are clustered in the same area and they are in negative pressure rooms and they have dedicated staff, so we do not have concern with that,” Mr. Cayer said, noting that hospitals, unlike nursing homes where there are no negative pressure rooms, are designed to treat infectious diseases.
Mr. Cayer added that differences in staff training and competencies, the length of stays and the more and sustained interactions between residents in a nursing home also account for a lower risk for the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19 in the hospital.
Accordingly, staff testing standards are different.
The staff is screened as they come in to the facility with temperature checks and standard questions about symptoms and travel as recommended by the Department of Health but they are not tested weekly for COVID-19 as is mandated for nursing home staffs.
“If we’re truly going to know the virus is coming in through staff,” Mr. Cayer said more rapid testing is needed because test results that take multiple days are insufficient to control exposures.
Since the current surge of COVID-19 in the county began in mid-October primarily due to a religious gathering, there have been a total of nine patients admitted to the hospital, none of whom were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit or required the use of respirators. While five of those people have since been released, two remain hospitalized.
Of the four deaths of Lewis County residents in the past nine days, two were at the hospital and one was in the nursing home. All three were nursing home residents.
The fourth death took place at a hospital out of the county.
Updates for COVID-19 statistics at the county hospital and nursing home can be found at https:lcgh.net/coronavirus.