The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Hancock County has seen a sharp increase in the past two weeks, but the largest concentration of new cases is in Heartland Villa. The Lewisport personal care home houses many residents who are the most vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.
“At this time, Heartland Villa Center has had 20 residents and 10 employees test positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Richard Feifer, chief medical officer for Genesis HealthCare (the company that owns the home).
Feifer gave those numbers in an email on Tuesday, October 27, when according to the Green River District Health Department, the county had 39 active cases out of 138 total positives. Those numbers changed to 140 total positives and 40 active as of Wednesday afternoon.
Numbers indicate that young, otherwise healthy individuals recover from the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the fatality rate for individuals 65-74 years old is 90 times higher than that of people 18-29 years old, and 630 times higher for those age 85 and above.
And preexisting medical conditions, or comorbities, worsen the effects of the virus.
That a virus has made entry into the location where the elderly and the sick reside is worrisome for the residents and the home, but Feifer said they have been taking extra precautions and keeping the positive patients together and separate from those who are still negative.
“As this pandemic continues, we remain stringent with restrictions and a whole host of other precautions,” Feifer said.
The home has been following guidelines from CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, he said, and sometimes even implementing them before they’re required.
Residents are screened for symptoms three times a day, he said, and all staff are screened and temperatures taken before entering the building, and all staff wear personal protective equipment.
Visitation is restricted, he said, but families can talk to residents via videoconferencing calls over Zoom, and the home keeps families updated regularly via those same calls.
Outside medical appointments are canceled except for necessary, time-sensitive or life saving treatments like dialysis or chemotherapy. Protecting residents is one thing, but trying to ensure that they receive care from staff who come and go each day and who now have to miss work because of testing positive is another, but Feifer said that the company has been bringing in staff from other locations to fill in.
“Heartland Villa is affiliated with a national organization that has deep workforce resources available to all its centers to support staffing needs,” he said. “These resources have been quickly deployed to replenish the needs of any centers where staff members have been impacted by the virus or have been absent for other reasons.
“With that said, our employees are the true heroes during this pandemic. They are coming to work each and every day to care for their patients and residents despite the personal risk. We are truly humbled by their dedication and compassion during these difficult conditions,” he said.