COVID-19 is a deadly disease that disproportionately affects the elderly. When those individuals are in a confined space, such as a nursing home, it can wreak havoc.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed older adults and those with underlying conditions as high risk for the novel coronavirus. Long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities, tend to have residents who fit all of these conditions.
Because of this, many long-term care facilities have implemented measures to protect both residents and staff, such as suspending visitors, curbing outside trips and adding new residents.
However, that does not mean that the virus cannot find a crack to slip through, and when it does, it can cause an outbreak in the facility.
The Georgia Department of Community Health has been tracking these outbreaks in facilities with 25 beds or more and publishing the data on the department’s website. Seven facilities in Carroll County have reported at least one resident or staff member as being infected by COVID-19, the illness associated with the coronavirus.
All of these facilities are located in Carrollton. Among them, there have been 15 deaths, 106 residents infected, and 21 staff members infected, according to the community health agency’s reports.
These figures, it should be noted, are different from the statistics kept by the Georgia Department of Public Health, a separate government agency. As of Friday, the DPH reported that there had been 11 deaths out of 317 positive COVID-19 cases in Carroll County.
A spokesperson for DPH has attributed this discrepancy to a possible lag in reporting between the two Georgia agencies. Due to this lag, it is unclear exactly what percentage of long-term care facility cases and deaths make up the county’s total of cases and deaths.
Across the country, increased scrutiny is being given to the vulnerability of nursing home or long-term care facility residents to the coronavirus. Because of the frail health of those individuals, a COVID outbreak can enter the facility and quickly overwhelm the resources available to combat it.
As part of fighting the outbreak of COVID-19 in these facilities statewide, Governor Brian Kemp ordered the Georgia National Guard to sanitize long-term care facilities in the state. The state Department of Defense lists seven facilities in Carroll County that have been sanitized as part of this project: Carrollton Manor, Carrollton Nursing & Rehab Center, Cottage Landing, The Oaks — Carrollton Skilled Nursing, Pine Knoll Nursing & Rehab Center, Brookdale Carrollton and The Stewart House.
Some of these facilities, such as Pine Knoll, are among the seven facilities being tracked by the Department of Community Health. The others are Autumn Square; Brookdale Carrollton; Carrollton Manor; Unincorporated; Carrollton Nursing & Rehab Center; Cottage Landing; and Cottage Landing Memory Care Building.
At Pine Knoll, according to the Community Health figures, 39 of its 86 residents have tested positive, with five positive cases reported among staff. Four residents have died, the reports state.
At Carrollton Manor, 44 of its 78 residents were reported as infected with six deaths. Nine staff members had tested positive.
According to Carroll County Coroner Keith Hancock, nursing homes have a medical director; a local physician with whom the facilities are in contact. If a resident dies on site, Hancock said, the medical director would be the person who signs the resident’s death certificate.
Missie Robertson, Nurse Executive at Tanner Health System, said she thinks the transfer rate between residents who tested positive and Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton has been relatively slender. If an individual does test positive, many of those tested can be maintained in the nursing homes.
“We find that our nursing home partners are very vigilant in protecting their patient population,” Robertson said.
Robertson also said that she does not think it is surprising that these positive cases are present in these facilities due to the resident’s demographic.