LEONARDTOWN, Md. – Nursing home residents could be in danger from a spike in COVID-19 cases.  An organization representing 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities recently warned about a new spike in weekly nursing home cases. Numbers rose in late September for the first time in weeks.

COVID cases are on the rise in 38 states and the group warns that the instance of COVID in the general population is cause for concern about the well-being of those most at risk for complications. They called for more funds to be made available to help nursing homes and assisted living communities protect their patients.

Locally, health experts said they are keeping a very close watch on nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

New Set Of Challenges

Champ Thomaskutty, Deputy Health Officer with The Calvert County Health Department, said the agency had worked closely with nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the county to stop the spread. “The Health Department assigned an infectious disease nurse from our staff to work with each nursing home.  Our nurses have helped keep each facility up to date on the latest state and federal recommendations and regulations.  They have also made sure that no nursing homes ran out of PPE (personal protective equipment) for staff and residents.”

Calvert County has been fortunate with no reported outbreaks or deaths in nursing homes from COVID.

However, Thomaskutty realizes the department must stay vigilant. “We realize that flu season will represent a new set of risks and challenges.  The Health Department staff have been working with nursing homes to make sure their staff and residents receive influenza vaccinations, and that each facility continues to follow optimal infectious disease prevention protocols to minimize the chance of future outbreaks.  We remind all family members of nursing home and assisted living facility residents to get their flu vaccines as soon as possible and delay any visits for 2 full weeks if they should develop any symptoms of COVID infection or be exposed to anyone with COVID.”

Working Closely With Nursing Homes

Dr. Meena Brewster, St. Mary’s County Health Officer, said the county was well-prepared to protect its three long-term care facilities: Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, St. Mary’s Nursing Center, and Chesapeake Shores. Despite the efforts, “Currently two of our three long term care facilities have active COVID-19 outbreaks and all three have experienced outbreaks during the course of this pandemic.”

Dr. Brewster said the St. Mary’s County Health Department works closely with the facilities. “We have deployed personal protective equipment, testing supplies, health department nursing staff, and other resources to the LTCF settings as needed; we have also worked daily with these facilities when they are in outbreak status to review and provide input on their outbreak control measures.”

She encouraged the public to help protect residents by minimizing in-person contact, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing. “Continuing COVID-19 infection precautions in the community also decreases community circulation of the virus which then decreases the risk to our LTCF residents – because facility staff live in these communities and may therefore get infected in the community and then unknowingly bring virus into the facility.”

Information about COVID at St. Mary’s County nursing homes is available at http://www.smchd.org/covid-19-data/