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COVID-19 Hits County’s Long-term Healthcare Facilities

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By Karen Knight

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
COURT HOUSE – According to data released by the NJ Department of Health April 22, four long-term care facilities operated by Genesis HealthCare in the county have reported 61 cases of COVID-19 among their staff and residents. Eleven residents have died at these facilities. The Autumn Lake Healthcare at Oceanview facility also reported five COVID-19 cases.
According to the state report, and confirmed by Genesis HealthCare April 21, their Court House Center, on Magnolia Drive, has had four residents test positive for COVID-19. At the North Cape Center, on Town Bank Road, one resident and one employee tested positive, and its Victoria Commons facility, on Town Bank Road, one resident tested positive for COVID-19. 
“Our Victoria Manor facility has had 30 residents who are positive for COVID-19 and 24 employees with positive tests,” said Lori Mayer, a spokesperson for Genesis. “Our thoughts go out to those impacted by COVID-19 during this difficult time, especially the 11 residents who have passed away with COVID-19 at Victoria Manor.”
“We have many patients in recovery,” she noted, without providing specifics.
The Autumn Lake Healthcare at Oceanview administrator declined to answer any further questions about the confirmed cases, referring to the state’s dashboard for information.
State officials reversed their earlier resistance to name the facilities where residents have tested positive for the virus and published a list of 425 long-term care facilities April 20. This was the result of hearing concerns that families were not being notified about COVID-19 cases where family members resided.
Additionally, the governor opened an investigation into nursing home deaths across the state, after officials discovered 17 bodies piled into a makeshift morgue and more than 100 residents infected with COVID-19 at one facility. Facilities now are being inspected by the Department of Health.
The facilities are now part of the governor’s COVID-19 dashboard, covid19.nj.gov.
The five long-term care facilities were the only ones listed in the report from Cape May County.
According to Mayer, “We have been extremely stringent on visitation restrictions, use of personal protective equipment and many other precautions at our facilities. We’ve followed guidelines and protocols set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in some cases getting out in front of them.”
“As a nation, we just do not know yet exactly how the virus is entering, so we stay as hyper-vigilant as we can, and as we learn more, we implement more and more safety precautions,” she stressed. “For example, the recent Kirkland report, released by the CDC, shows that people can be asymptomatic but carrying the virus and spreading it. In this instance, 57% of residents who initially tested positive were asymptomatic.
“It is a complex virus that is hard to detect and can take weeks to present itself. By the time you have a positive test result, many may have already been exposed. It is likely that we will never know exactly how the virus entered the facility.”
Genesis has been preparing for the virus since Jan. 27, when it sent out a message to all centers in preparation for an outbreak, according to a timeline posted on its website. It implemented a no visitation policy for areas with community spread of COVID-19 March 10. On March 16, they had their first confirmed COVID-19 case in a Genesis center.
“We can’t fight what we can’t see,” Mayer said, “so we need testing for residents and employees in nursing homes to continue to be prioritized. Testing has been difficult in the state of New Jersey. Other states have utilized the Department of Health or National Guard for testing.”
“When we first recognized symptoms at Victoria Manor, we requested testing kits from our laboratory partner,” she continued. “It took many days to get access to those kits. At this time, patient and resident testing has improved as we have been able to partner with a new lab to provide a 24-hour response time.”
Some of the steps Genesis has implemented include:
* Screening residents and patients for symptoms – three times daily
* Actively screening and taking temperatures of all staff upon building entry
* Requiring all staff to wear personal protective equipment
* Visitation restrictions, except for exceptional circumstances, such as end-of-life situations
* Cancellation of all outside medical appointments except for medically necessary, time-sensitive and life-saving treatments, such as dialysis and chemotherapy
* To make things easier for families, they have implemented the ability for families and loved ones to perform video conferencing calls using Zoom technology
* For any centers where positive cases arise, they notify patients, residents and families immediately, and update them daily via video conference calls. 
“Fortunately, we’ve been able to maintain an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, including standard face masks, gowns, gloves and N95 respirators by shifting supplies among our facilities and resourceful sourcing,” Mayer said. “We have also been following federal guidelines to re-use and extend the use of face masks. However, as this pandemic expands, this is not a sustainable solution.”
To contact Karen Knight, email kknight@cmcherald.com.

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