Deaths at Nursing Homes Rising

Nursing home residents are considered to be among the most vulnerable in the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus death toll associated with Oklahoma nursing homes and long-term care facilities has topped 100, even as the governor’s relaxing standards designed to slow the spread of the pandemic in the state.

The most–15–is at the Bartlesville Health and Rehabilitation Community, the Oklahoma Department of Health reported.

“It is difficult to put into words how proud I am of the professionalism and dedication being shown by our staff as they confront these challenging times head on,” administrator Sandra Brown wrote in a letter to residents and their families April 22.

The next highest nursing home death toll–13–is at the Grove Nursing Center.

The grim milestone was reached late last week even as the state takes greater steps to keep the coronavirus out of such facilities and slow the spread at homes with outbreaks.

The efforts so far have had success. 

Most of the state’s more than 600 such facilities have no reported positive cases.

“As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, it is clear this virus has a significant impact to our elderly and most vulnerable populations,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said Sunday.  “How to best protect those in nursing homes and long-term care facilities is a challenge that every state in the country continues to grapple with.

“As this fight continues, we are using every resource at our disposal.”

The respiratory disease has been particularly deadly at nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly because the virus spreads easily and many of the oldest residents already are in fragile condition. 

The death toll associated with those facilities is more than 40 percent of the total who have lost their lives in Oklahoma from COVID-19

Overall, 630 residents and 292 staff have been infected with the virus, the Health Department reported Sunday.  Of that total, 102 have died.

At least one death was a staff member, according to a weekly epidemiology and surveillance report released Friday.

The first COVID-19 nursing home death in Oklahoma came six weeks ago. 

Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Norman was notified March 23 that one of its residents died after being hospitalized.

The death toll associated with that nursing home grew to 10 by mid-April, but has not changed since as many residents have recovered.

“In Oklahoma, we ordered state agencies to take steps to protect these vulnerable populations on March 12 when there were just three confirmed cases in our state,” the governor said Sunday.

“The state Department of Health and the Oklahoma National Guard are disinfecting nursing homes where there have been outbreaks,” Gov. Stitt said. 

“We have plans in place to proactively test every nursing home resident and staff member, and, last week, we distributed 570,000 medical masks, 136,000 face shields, 700,000 gloves and 111,000 gowns to more than 300 facilities across the state to ensure workers and residents stay protected.

“Additionally, we will have each of the 42,000 nursing home residents and staff members tested over the next three weeks,” the governor went on.

“I know it is difficult on our nursing home residents and their families to not be able to allow visitors (except for in end-of-life circumstances), but that is a necessary sacrifice to keep our most vulnerable safe.”

Other facilities with five or more COVID-19 deaths are:

  • Binger Nursing and Rehabilitation(seven);
  • Brookhaven Extensive Care in Norman (five);
  • Coweta Manor Nursing Home (nine);
  • Franciscan Villa in Broken Arrow (six);
  • Grace Living Center in Mangum (five); and
  • Skiatook Nursing Home (six).
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