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One Nursing Home Looks for the 'Small Victories' as it Battles COVID-19

This fall’s surge of coronavirus cases is causing heightened concern for Ohio’s nursing homes. State figures show more than 3,300 long-term care residents infected with the coronavirus have died since April. That accounts for about 60% of the state's total COVID-19 deaths.

Community spread

Wayside Farm Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Peninsula is a 95-bed facility that cares for people with mental illness and behavioral issues. The facility went seven months without a COVID-19 case. And then an outbreak began Oct. 5. They had 80 cases and six deaths. Administrator Matthew Pool said community spread of the virus makes it very difficult to keep out of their facilities.

"Right before a shift started, we had found out that several staff members had been exposed in the community to another individual who subsequently tested positive. Well, this exposure was a week in advance," Pool said.

Pool said the staff members were removed from the schedule, but they had already been in the building, unaware they were exposed to the virus.

Pool says the facility has been coronavirus free since Oct. 27. But he acknowledges that battling the virus is like constantly playing a game of catchup.

"You don't have the all the answers at the time to make decisions. When you're testing people, it's taking upwards of three to seven days to get results back," he said.

Pool says one case inside a long-term care facility is considered an outbreak.

"When this comes into a nursing facility, I think it's very rare that you're going to find it just immediately isolated and quarantined. It's already been in there long longer than we've known or thought to have known," he said.

Lots of manpower

Pool says there are a lot of protocols to follow when there is a confirmed case.

"You have your reporting standards you have to do through the local government. You have the communication that you need to do with all the family members and guardians," he said.

And he says each resident and staff member must be tested twice a week once a case is confirmed, which includes administering and submitting test kits and waiting up to a week for results.

Pool says another challenge is the staffing issues.

"If you get COVID in your building, one of the things that will happen is you'll have a lot of people who are concerned for their own personal well-being. They make decisions to leave employment, immediately and outright," he said. "And that's very hard to continue to provide the care for the residents in the building. And you've got stress. You've got the uncertainty. You've got the media betrayal that if it gets into the building, this was [our] fault."

Focusing on the small victories

But through all the stress and worry, Pool says he tries to find bright moments. He says they've gotten creative to keep residents' spirits up, through encouraging loved ones to write letters and video chats to taking socially distanced walks outside.

And he gives all the credit to his staff for keeping his spirits up.

"I'm concerned about how they're doing because they're doing an amazing job, and I'm so proud of them. [I'm] touching base with them, seeing how they're doing and how their families are doing, and do they need anything," he said.

And he says he tries to find the silver linings.

"That helps me, looking for the small victories, like we've opened up a couple hallways in our building, and focusing on the positives that we can look at to say, 'Hey, you know, this will pass. We just have to weather this,' and communicating that," he said.

And Pool says what he needs is for the community to take the virus seriously and understand nursing homes' challenges.

"They need to be aware of this because what our actions do can affect other people. People need to be smart and prudent with what they're doing in their personal lives, and I think that will help all of us in nursing homes," he said. "And also not throw us under the bus when there's a couple cases that pop up in our facilities. It is an inevitability."

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