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Courtland nursing home confirms COVID-19 cases

COURTLAND

Forty-nine of Southampton County’s 144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have occurred in areas with a Courtland ZIP code according to data the Virginia Department of Health released on Wednesday.

But for now, it’s anybody’s guess how many of those are employees or residents at Accordius Health, a longterm care facility that up until April was known as Courtland Health & Rehab.

Gina Williams, the facility’s administrator, had confirmed to The Tidewater News on Tuesday that there were indeed confirmed cases at Accordius but declined to specify how many. She did, however, state that Accordius had seen its first confirmed case on April 11, less than two weeks after the North Carolina-based long-term care network had acquired the Courtland facility.

The Virginia Department of Health is investigating a total of seven COVID-19 outbreaks in its Western Tidewater Health District, five of which are at longterm care facilities. The sixth is at a correctional facility and the seventh,at a congregate setting, according to the VDH’s website.

That’s across all of Isle of Wight County, Southampton County and the cities of Franklin and Suffolk.Outbreak,” when applied to longterm care facilities, typically means two or more confirmed cases among residents or staff members, according to WTHD Director Dr. Todd Wagner. He, however, said he could not comment on specific outbreaks or cases at particular facilities.

VDH personnel have been on-site at Accordius offering COVID-19 testing to employees and residents, Williams confirmed. All residents, symptomatic or not, have now been tested, as has any staff member showing symptoms, she said. Residents who tested positive have been moved to a wing of the building reserved for COVID-19 patients, with those who are positive but asymptomatic further separated from those showing symptoms.

Southampton County resident Randy Heikens’ mother is among those residents who have tested positive but, so far, have remained mostly asymptomatic. Though visitation is still prohibited, he’s taken to traveling to the facility every other day to look in on her from outside her window. He’s also been in touch with several nurses seeking updates on his mother’s condition.

When he called on Mother’s Day, May 10, he said one nurse had told him that two-thirds of the staff had walked out that day, allegedly over a lack of personal protective equipment, leaving only six employees in the entire building at the time he called. Another allegedly told him the weekend of May 16-17 that she had bought her own gown and PPE. A third nurse allegedly told him that as of that weekend, 10 residents had died of COVID-19. He added that this nurse, who he described as being a traveling nurse that rotates among multiple facilities, had not been wearing a mask or gloves while talking to him from inside his mother’s room.

Williams, when asked about these allegations, denied the number of walk-outs and deaths that Heikens had claimed to have heard, but did admit that the facility has had some staffing issues since the pandemic began, both from those who had quit and from those who had tested positive for the virus and needed to self-quarantine. She said about half the facility’s staff is now comprised of agency nurses rather than in-house hires.

A lot of [the agency nurses] are very good,” Williams said. “There are some, as soon as they get into the building, they decide they can’t work in a COVID unit. That was an issue at first.”

She added that the facility is now insisting to the agencies it uses that any staff they send to Accordius be made aware that there are COVID-19 patients in the building before they enter.

I can’t promise them they will be assigned to a non-COVID unit,” she said. “We put them where we need them.”

Williams further denied Heikens’ allegations that the facility had ever run out of PPE, though she did admit that there were times over the past month or two when Accordius had nearly run out of certain supplies, such as gloves. The VDH, the Eastern Virginia Healthcare Coalition and Accordius’s corporate office have all been helping the facility to acquire the needed supplies, she said.

Williams now believes the facility to be on the road to recovery from its COVID-19 outbreak.

The last positive [COVID-19 test] we had was two weeks ago,” she said, adding that some of the staff who had needed to self-quarantine are starting to come back to work.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid instituted new reporting requirements for nursing homes that became effective on May 8, which requires them to report their COVID-19 data to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, with the first data set due by 11:59 p.m. on May 17. The CMS anticipates making this data public, to include facility names, the number of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, deaths and other information, by the end of May. Once published, this data will be viewable at data.cms.gov by clicking on “special programs/initiatives” and then “COVID-19 Nursing Home Data.”