190 cases, 21 deaths: Outbreak at Big Stone Gap, Va. nursing home driving Wise County COVID death spike

Local Coronavirus Coverage

A COVID-19 outbreak at Big Stone Gap, Va’s Heritage Hall has accounted for the majority of cases in a recent spike in deaths across an eight-county area of Southwest Virginia.

BIG STONE GAP, Va. (WJHL) – A nursing home outbreak at Heritage Hall had infected 190 residents and staff and resulted in 21 deaths as of Thursday, a Virginia Department of Health spokesman said.

The deaths appear to be the main driver behind the 36 new deaths reported in News Channel 11’s eight-county Southwest Virginia viewing area over the past 10 days.

News Channel 11 first learned of the outbreak after requesting information Nov. 10, when VDH’s Robert Parker reported 73 cases associated with the facility. No deaths had been reported at that time.

The 117-case increase between Nov. 10 and Thursday was accompanied by a heavy toll. Of the 36 deaths across eight counties since then, 22 came from Wise County.

Though VDH reports long-term care COVID data and updates it weekly, the Heritage Hall outbreak and another with 104 cases and two deaths in Scott County — Ridgecrest Manor in Duffield — hasn’t yet appeared on the site. An outbreak at a Heritage Hall facility in Grundy (Buchanan County) that Parker reported Nov. 10 is on the state site now and its case total had increased from 37 to 111 over nine days to Thursday.

Lenowisco Health District Director Dr. Sue Cantrell said in a statement last week that congregate facilities like nursing homes and prisons have an extremely difficult task keeping COVID when community spread rates are high.

“Staff who work in the facilities may have no symptoms (ever), and may be infecting others without ever knowing they are sick,” Cantrell said.

“Or they may work and infect others for days before their symptoms appear. This is true for all of us, always and everywhere; which is why precautions are so important in limiting the spread of illness, always and everywhere.”

Parker reported an outbreak at a second Southwest Virginia nursing home that’s not yet on the state website. Ridgecrest Manor in Duffield (Scott County) had reported 104 total cases and two deaths as of Thursday. VDH does not break down how many of the total cases at each facility involve residents and how many involve staff, while the Tennessee Department of Health does.

News Channel 11 reached out Friday morning to a spokesperson for American Health Care, the Roanoke, Va.-based company that operates both Heritage Halls and was awaiting a response as of publication.

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