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7 COVID-19 cases linked to assisted living facility in Spencer

7 COVID-19 cases linked to assisted living facility in Spencer

Update: Riverview Terrace Assisted Living issued a press release on August 13 confirming that it has experienced an outbreak of COVID-19. The full press release is below, followed by the original article.

Press release (August 13):

Riverview Terrace Assisted Living, a division of St. Luke Homes & Services, is reporting an outbreak of Covid-19. Representatives of Riverview Terrace, Spencer, has notified immediate family members, tenants and staff, but due to tenant privacy laws, officials are unable to share any further specific information about the confirmed cases.

The safety of tenants and staff is, and has been, a top priority for Riverview Terrace and mitigating actions, as recommended by federal and state agencies have been implemented and followed.

“Even with our heightened screening of residents, tenants, staff and visitors, this virus found its way in. We are doing everything possible to mitigate the effects. Our residents, tenants and staff are our top priority,” David West, St. Luke Homes & Services’ CEO/Administrator, said.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure we stop the spread of this. We are in very close communication with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps at this time,” Nancy Mills, St. Luke Homes & Services’ Director of Health Services, said. “Our staff and tenants are following the recommended preventative actions, we have restricted visitors from entering, and cancelled all group activities within the building until the virus has been eradicated.”  Outside visits have been canceled, tenants are encouraged to social distance, no groups greater than 10, and wearing of masks is encouraged.  

“We have reviewed and updated our infection prevention and control plans and our emergency communication plan,” Kerri Kofoot, Riverview Terrace’s Director, added. “We are following public health best practices including handwashing, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers and covering coughs. We are also screening all personnel as they enter and exit the building, and have also reinforced to our staff that anyone who is sick should stay home.”

Riverview Terrace began restricting visitors and all non-essential personnel in early March, per direction from federal and state health departments. Family members, in the meantime, have been encouraged to interact with their loved ones by using video chat, calling or texting or checking in on St. Luke Homes & Services’ Facebook page.

Clay County Public Health and Spencer Hospital Lab staff are expected on site this week to test all tenants and staff members of Riverview Terrace.

Riverview Terrace staff will continue to keep family members up to date as this situation unfolds, so they have the latest information about their loved ones, West, Mills and Kofoot added.

Original article (August 12)

Seven recently confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Clay County are linked to an assisted living facility in Spencer.

Five of the cases related to the assisted living facility are residents, while two are staff members, said Jeff Messerole, clinical instructor and liaison officer at Spencer Hospital.

Clay County Public Health is not releasing the name of the facility.

“We prefer just not to give that information because of protecting the privacy of the people that live there,” Messerole said.

Messerole said the name of the facility would become public if the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) designated the cases as part of an outbreak. That is unlikely to happen, though, as the state does not report cases or outbreaks in assisted living facilities as it does for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

As of Wednesday, IDPH data showed 510 of the state’s 951 COVID-19-related deaths are linked to nursing home outbreaks.

There are 28 current long-term care outbreaks in the state, two of which are located in nearby communities. Prairie View Home in Sanborn has reported 18 cases and Valley Vue Care Center in Armstrong has reported 52 cases.

Messerole said Clay County Public Health has been monitoring all nursing homes, whose residents are at a higher risk of severe illness and death due to COVID-19.

“We have been in all the nursing homes,” Messerole said. “Public health has been in all the nursing homes and the hospital and we have tested all the staff and all the residents in all the nursing homes multiple times, not just once, but have gone in a couple of weeks later and have tested them again, trying to identify in those high-risk areas (whether there) is there an asymptomatic carrier in the facility bringing it in.”

Spike sends Clay County above 200 cases

Messerole said Clay County has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent days with single-day totals that are higher than normal.

“Typically, we may go one or two (cases) a day or go or days with nothing,” he said.

Clay County has had 26 positive test results out of 245 tests in the past 14 days. That’s a 14-day positive test rate of 10.61%, another data point that has been climbing.

As of Wednesday, IDPH has reported 203 cases in Clay County, 155 recoveries and one death. Overall, 7.1% of people tested in the county have had positive results.

The number of individuals recovered is likely higher, as data reported publicly by the state sometimes lags behind information the county has received. Messerole said there were 32 individuals – none hospitalized – with active cases in the county.

Unified command group meets daily to talk COVID-19

Messerole spoke about the cases as part of a broader discussion on his role as a leader of a local unified command group during a recording of Spencer Weekly, the Spencer Signal’s podcast. The full episode will be released later this week.

Messerole said he believes the unified command group is unlike any other local group in the state because it brings together so many key stakeholders.

The unified command group meets at daily through video conference to talk about issues related to COVID-19 throughout Clay County. The group includes representatives from the City of Spencer, Clay County, other county communities, Spencer Hospital, law enforcement, fire departments, EMS and Elderbridge Agency on Aging.

The unified command group discusses many COVID-19 related topics, including regional hot spots, such as Emmet County, which Messerole said on Tuesday had an overall 14% positive test rate.

“The 14% in Emmet County was solely related to the outbreak at (Valley Vue Care Center) in Armstrong,” Messerole said.

Then there’s Dickinson County. As of Wednesday, that county had 385 confirmed cases, a 9.7% positive test rate and four deaths.

“Of course, the million dollar question is why aren’t we seeing cases soar through the roof in Dickinson County with the tourist season and all the people gathering and social distancing or masking at all, or very little, out in the clubs and the bars and that,” Messerole said.

He said the likely answer to that question is that those visitors are listing their home addresses for testing purposes, so their results are not counted toward Dickinson County’s totals.

“We know there’s a lot more illness in the county than is being reported,” Messerole said.

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