Coronavirus continues to plague Nevada long-term care facilities, even as state health inspectors work to mitigate the worst of the outbreaks.
As of Friday, 1,073 people in long-term care facilities had tested positive and 95 residents and staff members had died.
Overall, Nevada’s statistics are slightly better than the national average. A quarter of the state’s COVID-19 deaths are associated with long-term care facilities, compared to 42 percent nationally.
“Compared to the other states in the nation, we have really done a great job,” said Lisa Sherych, administrator of the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health. “That’s not to say we haven’t had issues. I would love to say we’ve had no COVID in any of our facilities.”
Outbreaks worse in Washoe
The numbers in Washoe County, however, are far worse than both the state and national averages after severe outbreaks at three facilities and a handful of positive tests at others.
As of Friday, 54 percent of the deaths in Washoe County were associated with long-term care facilities. More than 17 percent of the total infections came from facilities.
Most recently, an outbreak at Arbors Memory Care in Sparks infected 32 residents and 6 staff members. Three residents have died.
The worst outbreak has occurred at Lakeside Health and Wellness in Reno, where 69 residents and 22 staff members tested positive. Twenty residents and one staff member have died.
State health inspectors are still trying to figure out exactly how the virus took hold in the facilities, at the same time working to prevent the outbreaks from growing by assessing staff training, procedures and personal protective equipment supplies.
At Arbors Memory Care, for example, investigators believe a resident with dementia may have inadvertently spread the virus.
“They had a patient who tended to wander and was infected and wandered throughout the facility,” said Richard Whitley, director of Nevada Health and Human Services. “That does present a challenge.”
As the virus began spreading throughout the facility, residents with symptoms were taken to the hospital. As an assisted living facility, Arbors doesn’t provide as high a level of health care as a skilled nursing facility would. But the hospital returned the patients before the facility could establish an isolation wing.
“If an assisted living center is not at a point it can safely take care of a resident, it’s reasonable the resident should not return there until they put those processes in place,” said Laticia Metherell, health program manager for the Nevada Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance.
Metherell also stressed that even without the higher level of health care, assisted living facilities are required to keep their residents safe from infection. Her bureau is continuing to investigate the practices at Arbors.
According to a statement posted on Arbors Memory Care’s website, the facility has since created an isolation ward for residents who have tested positive.
“As Arbors Memory Care navigates this challenge, we remain focused on providing exceptional care and service for our residents and a safe environment for our staff,” the statement said.
Statewide, outbreaks have been exacerbated by the improper use of personal protective equipment, the failure to properly isolate positive residents and lapses in infection control, Whitley told lawmakers on Wednesday.
“Those are all improvable behaviors,” Whitley said.
Anjeanette Damon is the government watchdog reporter for the RGJ. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org 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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