Nursing homes work to keep residents safe during pandemic

The Living Center, 1409 N. 17th, was turned in March into a facility that would care for COVID-19 patients only. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

Nearly half of the deaths in Oklahoma, 238, associated with COVID-19 have been long-term care or nursing home cases, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Because data such as this, and the fact that about 80% of deaths have been those 65 and older in the state, long-term care and nursing facilities are taking the pandemic precautions seriously.

“I think they are definitely taking care of their patients and protecting them from infection,” Maggie Jackson, with Garfield County Health Department, said of the Enid facilities.

Locally, the COVID-19 activity at long-term care facilities has been quiet since the state confirmed its first cases in March, said Jackson, who is OSDH regional director of community engagement and health planning for District 2, which covers Blaine, Canadian, Garfield, Grant, Kingfisher, Logan and Major counties. Jackson also represents the Alfalfa County office.

OSDH reports Garfield County has 11 cases of COVID-19 associated with its long-term care facilities, including residents and staff, according to its executive report filed each week night.

In some instances, however, nursing homes are the first to alert its patients' families and the community, even before the cases are logged in by OSDH.

In Enid, OSDH reports the number of cases at four at The Arbors, all of whom have recovered, according to the facility; four at The Living Center, a COVID-19 facility for long-term care patients with the virus; two at The Commons, which sent out a press release Monday that a third case was reported Sunday as an employee tested positive; two at Homes of Greenbrier; one at Golden Oaks, which itself reported a case on July 3; and one case at Garland Road Nursing & Rehabilitation, where officials said the resident subsequently tested negative for the virus following an initial positive.

All of the cases at Enid facilities are listed as recovered on the OSDH executive report Monday night.

Kenwood Manor was alerted Sunday there was a positive test associated with its facility, OSDH confirmed Tuesday. Officials at Kenwood would not comment on the case Monday or Tuesday. The Commons employee who learned of a positive result on Sunday still is quarantined and has not experienced any symptoms, according to the facility.

At The Living Center, there actually are about 18 patients, many of them from Northwest Oklahoma, under care, said Crystal Reeve, director of clinical operations for all of MarshPointe homes in Enid, which includes Kenwood Manor and Enid Senior Care in addition to The Living Center.

Jackson said OSDH reports originate through the state-level and then are sent out to county offices for follow-up regarding contact tracing and any assistance that can be provided. A request for why there were only four cases reported by OSDH at The Living Center had not yet been answered by Tuesday evening.

Reeve said MarshPointe officials decided in March to turn The Living Center into a facility that would care for COVID-19 patients only so they could be separated from other residents while still safely receiving the same level of care.

The facility houses COVID-19-only patients from across the state, she said.

The set-up has worked well, Reeve said.

“We provide all the therapies and get them better,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing.”

Reeve said there was some trepidation at first as employees learned to don protective equipment and maintain safety precautions, but in the months since the facility became COVID-19-only things have become smooth.

“We have a good, solid team,” she said, “and it’s worked.”

Many of the long-term care facilities in Northwest Oklahoma have not allowed visitors since the pandemic reached the state and have continued to protect patients through social distancing. Officials have said the decision is weighing heavily against the feeling of isolation this can cause among residents.

Mike Weatherford, marketing coordinator for Greenbrier and family guide for skilled nursing, said his facility was looking at slowly opening up to visitors, but the recent employee positives have halted that effort for at least another 10 days.

He said that makes staff efforts toward care, family phone and video calls, window visits and drive-by caravans of well-wishers all the more vital.

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