Tighter rules for nursing homes: Milford Center sees 12 deaths

Chief medical officer Richard Feifer said 61 residents and 13 staff members at the Milford Center, which is owned by Genesis Healthcare, have tested or are presumed positive for COVID-19, with 12 residents dying. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

MILFORD — Nursing homes have been a hotspot for the coronavirus, and the Milford Center has been hit especially hard.

Chief medical officer Richard Feifer said Wednesday 61 residents and 13 staff members have tested or are presumed positive for COVID-19, with 12 residents dying. About 30 residents at the home, which is owned by Genesis HealthCare, are now stable and asymptomatic.

In a statement, Dr. Feifer said the center adopted strict safety protocols when the outbreak began 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.”

“I can assure you that we are working round 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 of at this time — to protect our patients, residents and employees,” he said.

There have been 93 coronavirus cases involving residents of long-term care facilities in Delaware, with 28 deaths, the Division of Public Health said Wednesday. That count lists the Milford Center as having seen only seven fatalities, although a spokeswoman for DPH earlier in the day said the center’s figures would be more up to date.

DPH’s count also names the Little Sisters of the Poor in Newark and Atlantic Shores Rehabilitation and Health Center in Millsboro as having seen multiple deaths, with 11 and five, respectively.

Dr. Feifer told Fox News last week nearly 20 percent of nursing home patients who contract the disease die, which he described as a staggering figure.

There are many ways the virus can enter a home, such as through a visitor or when a resident goes out for an essential medical appointment, he said, and once it’s there, it can spread like wildfire.

Delaware announced Wednesday it is mandating all nursing homes set aside both staff and special space to care for COVID-19 patients. Under the order, which took effect immediately, they must also establish a designated space for newly admitted and re-admitted individuals to stay for 14 days while being watched for signs of the disease.

The facilities also are required to check for updated safety protocols from the state on a daily basis.

“Our elderly populations, and especially Delawareans in long-term care facilities, are at very high risk for COVID-19 infection and hospitalization,” Gov. John Carney, who has described an outbreak in long-term care homes as his biggest worry, said in a statement. “These stricter measures that we’re issuing today are intended to save lives.

“All Delawareans should do their part to protect their neighbors, friends, and family members — especially those who are immunocompromised. 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.”

Returning residents to their care facility or home is of great importance, and they should be allowed back after being treated for COVID-19 as long as the site follows proper protocols, state officials said.

The state-run Governor Bacon Health Center will be utilized for patients who are discharged from the hospital, need daily assistance and can’t return home because of staff or caregiver shortages. Should residents be forced to be placed in other facilities, they will be sent home as soon as possible.

The state has set other limits on nursing homes over the past month in hopes of stopping the spread of COVID-19, chiefly requiring new safety practices.

The initial state of emergency declaration on March 12 instructed facilities that care for the elderly to put in place restrictions like screening visitors with symptoms. Four days later, the governor forbade nursing homes and the like from holding gatherings of more than 10 people that involve older individuals or those with underlying health conditions.

When the state ordered all nonessential businesses to close, such facilities were designated as essential.

Wednesday’s order also requires staff to complete special training by Monday. Medical directors for long-term care facilities must go through additional training by April 27.

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

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.