Chain with 11 Ky. nursing homes stops visits when an employee tests positive, but still isn’t making employees get vaccinated

Christian Health Center in Hopkinsville (Photos by Jennifer P. Brown)

Christian Care Communities, which operates 11 nursing homes in Kentucky, “is using what it learned to minimize the risk of a surge in Covid-19 cases — especially as a surge in the Delta variant suggests long-term care facilities may not have seen the last of the virus,” Jennifer P. Brown and Julia Hunter report for Hopkinsville’s online Hoptown Chronicle.

That means stopping regular visitation when employees test positive for the coronavirus, as Christian Care did at its homes in Hopkinsville, Louisville, Bowling Green, Midway and Corbin, Christian Care CEO Mary Lynn Spalding told the Chronicle.

When an employee at Christian Health Center in Hopkinsville tested positive, “The facility shifted immediately to scheduled, outdoor visits with masks required for residents and visitors,” the Chronicle reports. “Those unable to leave their room must visit with family members through a window, using cellphones to speak.”

The employee did not have contact with residents, but the visitation policy was changed after “devastating infections and deaths during earlier waves of the pandemic” at the nursing home, the Chronicle notes. “In 2020, 98 residents tested positive for the virus — which was nearly all of those living at Christian Health Center, Spalding previously told Hoptown Chronicle. Of those, 14 died of Covid-19.”

Christian Care Communities CEO Mary Lynn Spalding and
Jason Armstrong, 
Christian Health Center executive director

Spalding “believes it indicates how much skilled nursing facilities have learned about managing infectious disease during the pandemic,” the Chronicle reports. She said, “I don’t know a positive way to say it, but we are really good at managing Covid and infectious disease. Not that we weren’t good before, but everyone is so well attuned to it now.”

The Hopkinsville home is testing employees and residents for the virus twice a week because Christian County has a high level of virus spread, as measured by new cases over the last seven days. “As of Thursday, no one else at the nursing home had tested positive,” the Chronicle reports.

Spalding said, “If we don’t identify any additional positive cases, we will resume our normal indoor visitation in approximately two weeks.” She said the facilities in Louisville and Midway have returned to regular visitation after two weeks without any new cases, and Bowling Green and Corbin are likewise on track to reopen to visitors soon.

One thing Christian Care Communities and most other nursing-home operators in Kentucky are not doing is requiring employees to be vaccinated against the virus, even though only half of nursing-home employees in the state are vaccinated — one of the lowest rankings in the nation — and recent federal data show an uptick in coronavirus cases in nursing homes.
“As of Aug. 1, the rate of virus cases among residents had grown from 0.2 per 1,000 resident-weeks, a measure of occupied beds per week, to 3.9, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention,” the Chronicle notes. “Cases among staff had increased from 0.45 to 4.26. Nationwide data suggests a similar trend, albeit at a slower pace than seen in the commonwealth, with resident cases across the country up 0.3 to 1.45 and staff cases up 0.44 to 2.95 over the same period.”
The Chronicle notes that the state stopped its daily reports of nursing-home cases on June 19, so “the only public Covid-19 tracking information for area nursing homes is already nearly two weeks old by the time it’s released. It also doesn’t include facilities that aren’t certified by the federal government.”
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