CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — The Laurels of Bon Air, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center in Chesterfield, is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. According to the most recent data from the Virginia Department of Health, the care facility has over 100 coronavirus cases.
An employee reached by phone at The Laurels of Bon Air confirmed to 8News that three people died from COVID-19 today.
“Every COVID-related death is a loss to our residents’ families and our facility staff. We are not unlike other facilities who have had COVID outbreaks with losses,” says Communications Manager Ryan Zimmerman.
Zimmerman says there have been five total COVID-19 related deaths associated with this outbreak. Of the five lives lost, three people were receiving hospice care prior to contracting the virus.
This is not the first that the time facility has experienced loss due to the virus. VDH reported that there was a smaller COVID-19 outbreak at the facility in April that resulted in 12 cases and five deaths.
A staff member at Laurels of Bon Air, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, said they got sick with coronavirus at work.
“I am not doing well,” the staff member said. “I have a hard time breathing. I can’t eat, I cannot smell, I cannot taste my food. Nothing.”
The staff member said they are not being paid for time spent recovering from COVID-19.
“I work there and they don’t want to pay me,” the staff member said.
Between Nov. 17 and Nov. 20, VDH officials conducted an unannounced inspection which found the facility to be in “substantial compliance.” The inspection revealed that out of 106 residents, 28 were positive for COVID-19.
On Nov. 25, the care facility reported on their website that 62 residents and 17 staff members were positive for COVID-19. This was a significant jump from the day before on Nov. 24 when the facility reported that 30 residents and 23 staff members were positive. Six staff members reportedly recovered from the virus.
As of Nov. 30, their website is reporting 62 residents and 17 staff currently infected with COVID-19 at the facility. In the last seven days, two residents and five staff members have started to see “new onset respiratory symptoms.”
According to health officials, long-term care facilities are experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19 due to staff unknowingly getting the virus and passing it on to their high-risk patients.
Dr. Alexander Samuel, Chesterfield Health District Director, said today that:
We were notified of the initial case on November 5 with a majority of the cases following within the next two weeks. The facility had not been allowing indoor visitation, so the most likely source would be an infected staff member reporting to work, which has been consistent with what we are generally seeing at long-term care facilities lately, as case numbers are increasing so steeply in the community. We’re currently aware of fewer than five deaths at the facility so far.Dr. Alexander Samuel, Chesterfield Health District Director
Dr. Samuel said the facility is working to address the outbreak using surveillance testing to locate residents and staff who might be positive but aren’t showing symptoms.
However, a staff member claims the facility has not been quarantining patients. On top of that, the staff member said they have been allowing people to come and go — people coming into the facility from hiring agencies or those being hired to make repairs.
According to Zimmerman, everyone entering the building is screened for temperature and symptoms.
“I see with my own eyes how they bring these patients downstairs with COVID-19, moving people around and around and around,” the staff member said.
Zimmerman says all residents who have tested positive are moved to isolated COVID containment units at the facility. Staff working in these units are exclusively working with these patients and no one else.
Residents who test negative for the virus are separated and “cohorted according to potential exposure.”
“Because of this, we essentially have a ‘negative and no known exposure’ unit as well as a ‘negative and potentially exposed’ unit,” Zimmerman said. “Those in the ‘negative and potentially exposed’ unit are individuals we believe may have had direct contact with someone who has tested positive.”
Some families have told 8News that the facility has not been transparent with them throughout the outbreak. Families claim that when they call the facility no one gets back at them with information.
Zimmerman addressed these allegations in an email saying, “We sincerely apologize to families who may feel frustrated; this has been a challenging time for everyone. We provide updated and current information for our residents, families and responsible parties whenever possible. As part of our commitment to transparency, we have a dedicated COVID-19 Resources section on our website that includes facility data, mitigating actions, visitation updates and other resources. When updated general facility information is available, it is disseminated in a widespread fashion such as email, which is more time efficient for communicating. In addition, we have activated our marketing department to assist with phone coverage at the facility. Should resident families call with questions, we will make every effort to respond promptly.”
He claims the facility has sent multiple emails to families over the last week concerning the outbreak. However, he did say that there was an initial delay in individually notifying families by phone when their relatives tested positive for coronavirus.
Zimmerman declined an interview request and said the Laurel Health Care Company is focusing on their efforts on guiding the facility through this phase of the pandemic.
Dr. Samuels encourages family members to support residents through phone and video calls during this time.
“While positive cases in skilled nursing facilities like The Laurels of Bon Air are unfortunately something to be anticipated due to the recent increased spread of COVID-19 across the state and country, it is a difficult situation for everyone involved and we empathize with our residents, employees, families and community during this unprecedented time,” said Regional Director of Operations, Scott Williamson in a press release.
Stay with us for updates as we continue to report on this story.
READ: Findings from VDH inspection — Laurels of Bon Air
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