• 70°

Adams County nursing homes among facilities with COVID-19 cases, deaths

NATCHEZ — Adams County Nursing Center has had eight residents die of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported Wednesday.

The report also states that Adams County Nursing Center has 40 residents with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 14 employees with COVID-19.

When contacted, an administrator at Adams County Nursing Center declined to comment or be interviewed for this story.

Click here for a complete list of long term care facilities in Mississippi with active outbreaks.

According to the MSDH, Adams County Nursing Center was licensed for 100 residents and had 68 residents in a 2017 annual survey.

The only other Adams County long-term care facility to be included in Wednesday’s MSDH report is Glenburney Health Care and Rehabilitation Center, which has four COVID-19 cases in employees, five in patients and no deaths.

Messages left with Glenburney management seeking comment for this story were not returned. According to the MSDH, Glenburney was licensed in 2016 for 83 residents and had 76 residents at that time.

Dr. Blane Mire said long term care facilities and nursing homes are susceptible to COVID-19 outbreaks as is evident from the nationwide picture of COVID-19 outbreaks in such facilities throughout the nation.

“Take a relatively small space filled with aged individuals all with at least one to two underlying conditions all under one roof and then take a virus that attacks that group with a vengeance and also can do so by in such an insidious way by asymptomatic individuals that unfortunately can work there or visit there, that’s a recipe for these outbreaks,” Mire said. “That is what has happened across the country and has been an eye-opening thought process for infectious control in centers like that.”

Mire said such facilities were operating under typical disease prevention protocols at the onset of the outbreak and those standards were no match for COVID-19.

“Adams County Nursing Center may or may not have been doing anything any different than Glenburney,” Mire said. “They were unlucky to have the first, whether it be a nurse, nurse’s aide or a family member with an asymptomatic infection or mildly symptomatic infection and didn’t know what they had show up and sort of start the spread.”

Dr. Lee England, who practices infectious disease and internal medicine in Natchez, said also contributing to the outbreak in long term care facilities was a lack of testing ability early on in the pandemic.

“We entered the pandemic without much capability for testing people in a preventative sense and we still have that problem,” England said. “Early on during all of this we could just test patients that appeared sick and hospital employees and that was all. That is still just about the case but were adequate tests available a nursing home or prison could test their employees and if anybody showed up positive they could tell them to go home for two weeks and come back.”

England said COVID-19 comes in to such facilities, be it a nursing home, meatpacking facility or prison, from the outside with employees and visitors and some of those visitors and employees leave the facility and take the virus back into the community.

“The same would go with any business,” England said. “If you can test and know that your employees don’t have the disease and are not infected and if you find one that has it, you can say, ‘Go home and come back in a couple of weeks when you’re better,’ that would help. They might not be symptomatic but you can keep them out of the building until they are not contagious to anybody. Part of the issue is not having adequate testing.”

Mire said that long term care facilities popped up as potential hotspots for spread of COVID-19 early but most, including Adams County Nursing Center, have made improvements to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We know the facilities have had intervention in the facilities and the facilities have gone through retraining and really upgrading their infection control protocols,” Mire said. “The hospital itself sent personnel to the nursing home to assist in preparing their rooms and their personnel in terms of how to use proper PPE and have the negative pressure rooms put in for those that were diagnosed with it. They were given that support but the process of spread had already started.”

Mire said families with loved ones in nursing homes should take comfort in knowing facilities have learned from that retraining.

“The message to families is having a loved one in a nursing home is not a death sentence at all now,” Mire said. “The protocols that are in place now are there to be much more effective to protect their loved ones that are there as well as the employees that are working so hard to take care of them.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health on Wednesday night released the names of long-term care facilities throughout the state with active COVID-19 cases.

The action comes only after a newspaper sued the department, The Associated Press reports. A Hinds County chancery court judge ruled May 26 that the department must respond to a public records request from the Pine Belt News and its parent company, Hattiesburg Publishing Inc. Other news organizations also sought the information from the department.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.