COVID-19 continues to pummel nursing homes

DOVER — COVID-19 continues to ravage nursing homes and similar facilities in Delaware. Elderly individuals and those with serious underlying conditions are most at risk from the virus, creating a perfect storm that has swept through many long-term care centers, leaving destruction in its wake.

According to Friday’s update from the Division of Public Health, which covered up through 6 p.m. the previous day, Delaware has seen 7,373 cases and 271 related deaths. Of those 271 deaths, 177 — 65 percent — involved residents of long-term care centers.

In total, 542 residents have tested positive or are presumed to have had the virus, meaning the fatality rate so far is just under one-third.

Twenty-seven facilities have seen at least one death, although 117, or 66 percent, involved just eight places.

Three centers account for 67 deaths — 38 percent of the total — with 31 at Genesis Healthcare’s Milford Center, 20 at Harrison House Senior Living and 16 at Brandywine Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Three other facilities have double-digit death totals, including 11 at Little Sisters of the Poor, the site of the first outbreak in a long-term care center here. However, the Newark home has not seen a death in more than a month, even as totals for other places have crept up.

According to a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Services, DPH’s parent agency, the state has stepped in to educate long-term care facilities about the virus, including sending experts to help in person.

Milford Center was issued citations following a DHSS survey on infection control measures, and “the facility is being monitored by the Division of Health Care Quality for an acceptable plan of correction,” with an on-site visit scheduled, Jill Fredel wrote in an email.

Gov. John Carney has described outbreaks in nursing homes as his biggest coronavirus-related fear, and public health officials communicate regularly with long-term care sites.

Genesis did not respond to a request for comment Friday, but the company said in a statement last week it has put in place recommendations from the federal government “and in many cases, has gotten out in front of public health guidelines, adopting even more stringent infection precautions than were recommended at the time.”

Among the precautions are screening residents and patients for symptoms multiple times a day, restricting visitation, canceling outside medical appointments and notifying family members of positive tests.

“I can assure you that we are working around the clock to keep our patients and residents healthy and as safe as possible. We are doing everything in our power — and everything medical experts know as of at this time — to protect our patients, residents and employees,” chief medical officer Richard Feifer said.

The impact on nursing homes isn’t unique to Delaware: According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 44 states have reported more than 152,000 cases in almost 7,100 facilities nationwide. Those have resulted in slightly more than 30,000 deaths.

Per the nonprofit, the share of the total case count for long-term care homes is 16 percent, yet they have seen 41 percent of coronavirus deaths in the country.

Cheryl Heiks, executive director of the Delaware Health Care Facilities Association, said nursing homes take part in disaster planning exercises at least once a year and take extra steps to keep residents safe during flu season.

“We will not beat this virus if nursing homes are penalized for outbreaks that are beyond their control due to a virus that the world still does not fully understand and a systematic failure to prioritize long term care for resources,” she wrote in an email. “This is a time when we all must come and work together to support facilities with appropriate testing, supplies, staffing and funding.

“We thank the many families and residents that have worked closely with us to communicate via technology during the crisis, and for their patience and cooperation in the steps necessary to protect our residents.

“The highly trained staff have become an army against a silent killer and deserve the credit for their outstanding and on-going efforts to keep the virus at bay and for caring for residents — the greatest generation — and supporting each other during the pandemic — which unfortunately is not showing any signs of decreasing in our environment. Providers and their staff are performing heroic efforts in the face of a historic challenge and taking extraordinary measures to protect an extremely vulnerable population.”

Any facility with questions or concerns should email DPH_PAC@delaware.gov or call 1-866-408-1899 and press ext. 2.

Long-term care facilities

The Delaware Division of Public Health is now releasing full statistics on COVID-19 cases involving long-term care centers on Fridays. As of 6 p.m. Thursday, there had been 542 confirmed cases involving long-term care residents, with 177 deaths. That’s up from 450 and 137 one week prior. The locations and number of deaths related to long-term care facilities are as follows. DPH is only naming ones with multiple deaths, although Governor Bacon is an exception because it is state-run.

Genesis Healthcare’s Milford Center (Milford): 31

Harrison House Senior Living (Georgetown): 20

Brandywine Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (Wilmington): 16

Little Sisters of the Poor (Newark): 11

Harbor Healthcare and Rehabilitation (Lewes): 11

Atlantic Shores Rehabilitation and Health Center (Millsboro): 10

Genesis Healthcare’s Brackenville Center (Hockessin): 9

Pinnacle Rehabilitation and Health Center (Smyrna): 9

New Castle Health and Rehabilitation Center (New Castle): 7

Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill (Smyrna): 7

Cadia Broadmeadow (Middletown): 6

ManorCare Health Services (Wilmington): 6

Parkview Nursing and Rehabilitation (Wilmington): 6

Westminster Village (Dover): 5

Hillside Center (Wilmington): 3 

Methodist Country House (Wilmington): 3 

Delaware Psychiatric Center (New Castle): 3

Newark Manor Nursing Home (Newark): 3

ManorCare Health Services (Pike Creek): 2

Summit Assisted Living (Hockessin): 2

Governor Bacon Health Center (Delaware City): 1

Five other New Castle County long-term care facilities: 1 each

One Sussex County long-term care facility: 1


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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