Nursing home outbreaks intensify in Southwest Virginia

Local Coronavirus Coverage

COVID-19 cases within Southwest Virginia nursing homes have increased significantly the past three weeks.

(WJHL) – A Chilhowie, Va. nursing home now has more positive COVID-19 than any other Virginia long-term care facility, while a recent outbreak at an Abingdon facility reported triple the case count Wednesday that it had Tuesday.

A total of 57 residents and staff are COVID-positive at COVID-19 cases at Accordius Health at Abingdon, data from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) show.

That’s up from 18 Tuesday at the multicare facility, which also has seen at least one death since the outbreak was first reported Sept. 10. Virginia only provides a specific number of deaths when the total reaches five “to preserve anonymity,” according the the state website.

‘It is generally recognized late because it can come in and then spread and overtake half the facility before you even know it’s there.’

DR. KAREN SHELTON, DIRECTOR, MOUNT ROGERS HEALTH DISTRICT

Less than 20 miles from Accordius, Valley Health Care in Chilhowie has reported 109 total cases for the past several days. That’s up from 10 cases Sept. 3, 41 Sept. 11, and 73 cases a week ago.

Valley’s administrator, Jason Lindsey, said of those, 20 residents who currently classified as active cases were inside an isolated section of the facility as of late Wednesday.

Valley’s data still shows fewer than five deaths as well. With sources saying Valley’s total had eclipsed five, News Channel 11 requested an update on the death count Tuesday.

A spokesperson for VDH said in an email that the information comes from local health departments. Officials at Mount Rogers Health District replied, “we cannot share any information beyond what is publicly available on the dashboard.”

A Mount Rogers spokesperson responding to a News Channel 11 request said late Wednesday afternoon the district is seeking clarification on how officials gather the information from each facility.

Wednesday morning, Accordius Health at Harrisonburg’s status was transferred to “outbreak pending closure,” leaving Valley’s 109 cases as the highest total in any current outbreak.

According to VDH, “outbreaks are labeled as ‘Pending Closure’ if 28 days have passed without a documented new case and the outbreak has not yet been closed in VOSS (the Virginia Outbreak Surveillance System).”  

The Harrisonburg facility’s outbreak, which started April 8, had 112 reported cases and 25 deaths.

Nine Virginia facilities in the pending closure status had more than 100 cases, and none had fewer than nine deaths. The average number of deaths per 100 cases among those large outbreaks was 21.

Dr. Karen Shelton directs the Mount Rogers Health District. During an interview Sept. 11, she said with community spread of COVID reaching widespread levels — particularly in Washington and Smyth counties — long term care facilities were particularly vulnerable.

“We do unfortunately see our worst outcomes when we get COVID into a facility,” Shelton said. “Unfortunately it is generally recognized late because it can come in and then spread and overtake more than half the facility before you even know it’s there.”

When Shelton offered that assessment, the Abingdon outbreak had just begun, and numbers there, in Chilhowie, and at Bristol Rehab and Memory Care were less than half their current reported total of 244.

A Grayson County facility — Grayson Nursing and Rehabilitation Center — also in the Mount Rogers District has 65 cases. VDH’s case numbers combine staff and resident cases, whereas those reported by the Tennessee Department of Health separate the two and also include resident recoveries.

The Grayson County facility is the only one of the four reporting zero deaths.

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