16 dead, dozens more have COVID-19, as Tyler’s Retreat at Iron Bridge outbreak continues

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield County’s Health District Director Dr. Alexander Samuel tells 8News 16 people have now died after testing positive for coronavirus at Tyler’s Retreat at Iron Bridge.

According to updated figures released Tuesday, the retirement community is currently dealing with 69 positive cases among residents and 36 positive staff cases. Dr. Samuel said this is the most significant outbreak since the early months of the pandemic.

8News first reported four people died and that case count included 55 residents and 26 employees on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

On Monday, Oct. 27, Dr. Samuel told 8News 11 people had died after testing positive with the virus. The retirement community at the time was dealing with 35 positive cases among staff members and 69 positive cases among residents. In an interview Tuesday, while estimating the exact timeline, he said five more people have died since the end of last week, bringing the total number to 16 at this time. Dr. Samuel added that “many” of the residents who passed away had underlying conditions before testing positive. “Many were on hospice, palliative care, or otherwise sick with other chronic conditions,” he said.

8News asked for more information about that. “We don’t have detailed information about every individual who passed, or every patient for that matter,” he said.

On Tuesday, 8News reached out to Tyler’s Retreat at Iron Bridge for comment on the new numbers. They declined our request for an interview and instead referred 8News to their attorneys. The attorneys issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

The facility acts in the best interest of its residents to promote their health, safety, and welfare.  We continue to work closely with the Department of Health and follow all local, state and federal reporting guidelines and regulations.  We have routinely updated all residents and responsible parties regarding their condition and care.  Due to HIPAA regulations, we cannot comment on any personal health information.”

Statement sent on behalf of Tyler’s Retreat at Iron Bridge

Candice Fens is preparing to say goodbye to her loved one of more than 20 years. Fens says her 79-year-old family friend was recently diagnosed with a serous case of stomach cancer.
“She is home right now and not expected to make it much longer,” she told 8News Tuesday. “You never expect your loved one to go through anything like this, ever.”

Her loved one was living at Tyler’s Retreat, she says, until COVID cases increased. At that time, family removed her from the facility. The same day she left the facility, Fens said her loved one tested positive for COVID-19.

“The cancer is affecting her stomach, which is making her not be able to eat. But now she’s got COVID which is affecting her lungs, which is making her harder to breathe,” Fens said.

She believes the facility dropped the ball. “If you followed all the protocols, it wouldn’t have spread like that,” she said.

In the interview with 8News on Tuesday, Dr. Samuel said his staff have visited the facility several times since cases began rising and made recommendations during the visits. “My understanding is the facility has been doing pretty much everything that they have been asked to do on subsequent follow up visits,” he said.

Dr. Samuel said one of the “major” recommendations his staff made was to separate COVID-19 positive individuals from negative individuals and also dedicate specific staff to the positive individuals exclusively. “Thereby reducing the potential wave or spread to those who were not infected,” he said.

Now, he said he’s hopeful that this is the turning point for the facility. “The number of individuals that have been reported as being new cases, we have probably reached the max point and are hopefully past that point of additional spread or major additional spread,” Dr. Samuel said.

It’s not clear how the virus got inside the facility, but Dr. Samuel said the “suspicion would be an infected staff member.”

This outbreak is worsening as cases increase in Chesterfield County as a whole. He said that may affect the amount of outbreaks and severity of outbreaks as well. “As cases increase statewide, increase county-wide, increase district-wide, the potential for individuals who interface with the vulnerable to be infected grows as well. So this is a lesson for all of us, regardless of what we do, regardless of whether or not we think we will be interfacing with somebody, we could potentially have a serious outcome. Stay vigilant and continue to practice social distancing, wearing a mask,” he said.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News for updates.

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