A Swanton nursing home recorded a startling spike in the number of COVID-19 cases among residents and staff members during the past week.
Swanton Health Care and Retirement Center, 214 S. Munson Road, has confirmed 48 coronavirus cases among residents, 26 alone within the recent week, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard. Thirteen staff members contracted the virus in the same weekly period, for a cumulative total of 37.
Administrator Elaine Heatherwick did not return calls for comment.
Fulton County Health Commissioner Kim Cupp said the outbreak at the facility could have been caused by the presentation of the SARS-CoV2 virus – which causes COVID-19 – asymptomatically into the facility. “Asymptomatic spread, along with the ability of the virus to spread very easily person-to-person presents a significant challenge in long-term care facilities,” she said.
COVID-19 cases in the county’s other long-term care facilities include: Fulton Manor, 723 S. Shoop Ave., Wauseon – 7 cases within that week and 14 cumulative cases among residents; Fairlawn Haven, 407 E. Lutz Road, Archbold – no resident cases, 1 case within that week and 3 cumulative cases among staff members; Indian Meadows, 303 W. Leggett St., Wauseon, two cases each among residents and staff members, both within that week and cumulatively; Swanton Valley Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, 401 W. Airport Hwy., no recent cases; two cumulative cases each among residents and staff members.
The COVID-19 Dashboard, implemented by Governor Mike DeWine on the ODH website, lists by county all cases in long-term Ohio care facilities in a simple format. It was last updated Oct. 7.
Mari Yoder, Fairlawn Haven director of development, said the three staff members who contracted COVID-19 did so while away from the facility. One is on leave from work for unrelated matters, one left the facility to return to college, and the third remains in quarantine.
Additionally, a hospice staff member who visits Fairlawn Haven tested positive about two weeks ago and has not returned. Any staff member testing positive must provide a negative COVID test and clearance from their doctor to resume work.
Yoder said all staff members wear N95 masks at all times; if any have problems with that type of mask they wear both a shield and a surgical mask. Staff members who care for patients for an extended period of time also wear gowns and gloves.
“That is the biggest challenge that we’re facing right now, is making sure we have enough PPE to do what we need to do. N95 masks are particularly hard to find,” Yoder said.
For that reason, masks are re-worn but sanitized daily with an ultra-violet light device, and are eventually replaced. Staff members’ temperatures are checked daily.
Other precautions taken by the facility include no group activities, no visitors in the center, frequent cleaning and sanitizing, and mandatory masks and social distancing during outside visits. Staff remain outside to enforce the rules, and screen the visitors with temperature checks and questions regarding their health. All of the information is recorded.
Fairlawn Haven follows regulations from multiple organizations. The facility must report positive cases to either a local or state health agency within 24 hours, and sends all residents and their family members notice of a case.
Still, the facility remains concerned about its staff, their children, and parents they may care for. “When people don’t choose to wear masks it puts everybody in the community at risk,” Yoder said. “They have the possibility of sharing it with everybody, including our staff.”
“The fact that we’ve been able to keep it out of our nursing home for as long as we have is commendable to our staff,” Yoder said. “We’re just grateful none of our residents have had it.”
Steve McCoy, spokesperson for Fulton Manor, said as of Monday nine residents are quarantined in a special unit for COVID-19 at the facility. Cumulatively, 18 staff members have contracted the virus, with six still on protocols.
McCoy said it’s not easy to determine how or where the virus was contracted.
“There’s just a variety of ways a person could get it. There’s just no way to determine the cause of the spread,” he said. “Even doing all the guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) represent, nothing is ever 100%, so we’re doing all we can. There are always thing that occur that can still cause the spread.”
All Fulton Manor staff members wear N95 masks, face shields, and eye protection where necessary. Residents are checked for symptoms three times daily, and the facility is following all CDC guidelines for protective equipment and exposure. All residents dine in their rooms and group activities are suspended.
McCoy added, “Activities (Department) is very creative in keeping residents active and keeping them in communication with their families.”
Regular cleaning and sanitizing is practiced, and in cases where someone may exhibit COVID-19 symptoms the facility uses a large ultraviolet device that can effectively sanitize.
McCoy said the facility and its staff are “doing a fantastic job, but that’s the nature of COVID. You can do everything perfectly and still come down with it. We’re going to have to continue our due diligence.”
Cupp said those living in long-term care facilities are more susceptible to COVID-19 due to their advanced age and the presence of chronic diseases they may already suffer.
She said the county health department, the Fulton County Health Center, the Fulton County Emergency Management Agency and emergency medical services have all maintained regular contact with the county’s long-term care facilities during the pandemic, regarding all aspects of resident care. The facilities also have the support of the state’s Congregate Care Urgent Response Bridge Team, which includes staff members of the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Medicaid who respond to emergency situations in long-term health care facilities.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.