Virus reaches nursing home

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    Andrews – Valley View Care & Rehabilitation Center residents and staff were all tested Monday after one resident came back positive for COVID-19. On Thursday morning, the Cherokee County Health Department confirmed that all 114 tests returned negative, and there were no other cases at the facility at this time.
    This was Cherokee County’s first case in a long-term care facility. Health Director David Badger said the individual was not showing signs of any symptoms of the virus and is doing well as far as he knew.
    Mark Chandross, administrator of Valley View, said the facility contacted the family members of all residents.
    “That was one of the very first things we did,” he said.
    The individual left the facility for medical care and upon returning to the facility was isolated, as is the facility’s procedure. The health department believes the individual may have been infected while receiving care outside the facility, and that possible exposure prompted testing. Valley View started prohibiting visitors on March 12, ahead of many other facilities.
    Badger said Valley View has been working closely with the health department to protect its residents and staff. Any resident who leaves the facility and returns is quarantined for 14 days, like local governments are asking part-time residents to do.
    “They have been proactive about this,” Badger said.
    Badger said this case is very concerning to him because of the high-risk population in the facility. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention list people ages 65 and older, especially those who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, as high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
    Valley View is a 76-bed skilled nursing center owned by Consulate Health Care, with about 48 residents and 75 staff members. Chandross said the center has been following all policies set for the coronavirus and practicing safety every day.
    “As it has progressed, we have gotten updates and made changes,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of the staff. We’ve got to take care of our residents. That’s our job.”
    Chandross added he is thankful for the support from the community, which he knows will help them get through this.
    “We’re in this together,” he said.
    In nursing homes across the state, there are 905 cases of COVID-19 and 37 outbreaks. A facility is considered to have an outbreak when it has two or more laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus.
    While those ages 25-49 account for the most confirmed cases in the state, those ages 65 and up account for the most deaths of all age groups at 85 percent. Of the deaths of people who tested positive in the state, 29 percent were nursing home residents as of Monday.
    Last week, the Clay County Care Center had a staff member who felt sick, but tested negative for COVID-19 after taking a rapid test at Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital, the Clay County Health Department said in a release. However, the physicians decided to treat the staff member as a presumptive positive until a confirmatory test could provide results, and everyone at the nursing home was tested. Two days later, the health department announced that all 178 tests from the care center returned negative.
    As of Thursday morning, the Cherokee County Health Department has announced 22 total cases of COVID-19 since March 18. Out of those cases, two were non-residents, one has died and 11 have recovered. Two cases were announced last week, while another one was announced Monday afternoon.
    On the morning of April 18, the health department announced a person was tested after going to a local emergency room for a respiratory-type illness. The person has been isolated since being tested and is isolated in their home, the health department said. This individual had no known contact with anyone infected with the virus.
    On Thursday morning, the health department announced a resident who was exposed to the virus while on essential work-related travel in New Jersey tested positive. The individual has remained isolated in their home since returning to Cherokee County.
    On Monday, a local resident who went to an emergency department in Georgia tested positive there. The person was isolated at a hospital there, and the health department is working to determine where the individual may have been exposed to the virus.
    The health department announced on April 12 that community spread is occurring in the county. Badger said none of the previously reported cases of unknown origin have been connected to any new cases. He added that so far, no cases have been connected to the Lowe’s employee who tested positive two weeks ago.
    Local residents are reminded to continue practicing measures to prevent spreading the virus, like washing hands, coughing or sneezing into the elbow, staying home if sick and social distancing. In instances where social distancing is difficult, the CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering. Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of another person for 10 minutes or more. The health department also advises that people continue to follow the state’s Stay-at-Home order.
    As of Monday, North Carolina had 6,764 positive cases of COVID-19 and 179 deaths since the beginning of March. The state is not reporting recoveries, but does not take recoveries away from its total number of cases as it does with deaths.