Coronavirus outbreak at Reno nursing home kills two patients, state is investigating

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State health officials are investigating a coronavirus outbreak at the Lakeside Health and Wellness nursing home in Reno that has killed two residents.

Lakeside Health and Wellness is one of two nursing homes in Washoe County and 20 nursing homes in the state that have had residents or staff test positive for the virus, according to a list provided to the Reno Gazette Journal by the Division of Public and Behavioral Health. HearthStone in Sparks is the second nursing home in Washoe County to have at least one positive coronavirus test.

Neither state or local health officials would provide further information on how many coronavirus cases have been discovered among patients and staff at Lakeside Health and Wellness or the condition of those who have tested positive.

Coronavirus updates: Here are the latest updates on COVID-19 in Nevada

“An investigation of Lakeside Health and Wellness, which is licensed as a skilled nursing facility, has been started by the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health,” said division administrator Lisa Sherych. “No other information will be provided until the investigation is complete.”

The 189-bed facility on Plumas Street provides short and long-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation services.

State, county provide no details

Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, the hospital’s administrator declined to comment.

“I don’t have time right now, I apologize,” she said. “Right now, we are busy taking care of all of our patients.”

Asked to describe the extent of the outbreak and what measures are being taken to address it, Washoe County District Health spokesman Scott Oxarart declined to comment.

“We have COVID-19 at state licensed facilities but due to medical and privacy requirements, we cannot provide specific answers to your questions at this time,” Oxarart said.

Second state investigation of health facility in Reno area

The outbreak at Lakeside Health and Wellness is the second announced investigation of a health care facility by the state public health division. The division is also investigating an outbreak that has sickened 24 children and 11 staff members at Willow Springs, a residential behavioral health treatment center for youth. One staff member at Willow Springs has died.

Three people who worked for the VA High Sierra Health Care System have also died of the virus, including a nurse and a medical technician.

As of Friday morning, 10 people total have died in Washoe County and 363 people have tested positive. According to information from the Nevada Hospital Association, 45 percent of intensive care unit beds were full in Northern Nevada and 28 percent of ventilators were in use. Not all of the patients in the ICU or on a ventilator were coronavirus patients.

Coronavirus timeline: How many known cases of COVID-19 are in Nevada? Where are they?

Nursing homes are high-risk for infection

Skilled nursing homes are identified as high-risk facilities, where the coronavirus can spread rapidly and lethally through vulnerable patients.

On Thursday, the state released a list of facility names, but declined to release total number of cases at each facility.

“DPBH will not release case counts and contacts for residents and staffing, as these numbers can change rapidly,” the agency said.

Before the virus began spreading widely through Nevada, state health officials said they began working with nursing homes to update their infection control practices and respond immediately when a patient is identified.

“As suspect cases are identified and tested, the DPBH programs continue working with the facilities to implement strong infection control procedures involving higher levels of social distancing, separating those who are symptomatic from those who are not, environmental cleaning, and testing of those with high exposure to the case,” the agency said.

The health agency cautioned that the list is likely not exhaustive because of the scarcity of testing supplies in Nevada. The list includes only facilities that “proactively reported symptomatic staff and residents and have had laboratory-confirmed cases or suspect cases with laboratory testing in process.”

Anjeanette Damon is the government watchdog reporter for the RGJ. You can reach her at adamon@rgj.com or follow her on Twitter @AnjeanetteDamon. If you care about shining a bright light on decisions made by your elected officials, please consider subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal.

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