Public health officials are continuing to see an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in local long-term care facilities and residents in those facilities are still accounting for more than half of the deaths reported in Mobile County.
Twin Oaks Rehabilitation and HealthCare Center is the latest long-term care facility to publicly disclose information about COVID-19 among its residents and staff. A statement released by the center Friday said two residents and two employees have confirmed cases of the disease. Three of those cases were found during comprehensive testing efforts after an employee initially tested positive May 4
According to the facility, all four of those with confirmed cases have been asymptomatic. Staff members there are continuing to take extra steps to prevent further spread of COVID-19 through enhanced sanitation practices and efforts to quarantine infected residents from others inside the facility.
Other local facilities have fared much worse, though.
As Lagniappe has reported, Crowne Health Care has confirmed more than 115 cases of COVID-19 at its facility in Mobile, which, as of May 8, had led to the death of 20 residents and three employees. Ashland Health and Rehabilitation has confirmed dozens of cases as well and told local reporters at least five of its residents have died since the pandemic hit Alabama.
As of Friday morning, 52 of Mobile County’s 98 confirmed COVID-19 deaths were reported among residents or employees of long-term care facilities. According to Dr. Rendi Murphree, an epidemiologist with the Mobile County Health Department, there are seven local facilities with at least five cases reported, seven others that have less than five cases and 23 that have not reported any cases so far.
Murphree said MCHD is continuing to work with long-term care facilities throughout the county, whether they’re working to control ongoing outbreaks or prevent one from starting within their walls. Murphree did say the nature of some long-term care facilities could be why they’re reporting so many deaths.
“We’re finding out from many of the facilities that some patients and their families have opted for hospice instead of aggressive treatment for COVID-19 disease,” Murphree said earlier this week. “So, some who’ve passed away in these facilities have made that choice to deliberately remain in the facility with the staff that has been caring for them as they go through the end stages of their lives rather than going to the hospital and trying to aggressively fight against COVID-19 infection.”
Given the impact COVID-19 has had on local long-term care facilities, many people have been seeking information about what facilities have confirmed cases, but that information is not released by MCHD or the Alabama Department of Public Health because of state laws prohibit information gathered during epidemiological investigations from being disclosed publicly.
Like Twin Oaks, Crown Health Care and Ashland Place, the facilities themselves are at liberty to disclose that information at any point but aren’t required to. However, Murphree said there have been some recent changes that could require long-term care facilities to disclose more about their known COVID-19 cases.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a rule change requiring any facility treating Medicare or Medicaid patients to begin reporting all confirmed cases of COVID-19 directly to CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by May 31.
According to Murphree, CMS has expressed interest in releasing more information and statistics about facilities with outbreaks of COVID-19 that could include the names of those facilities. She said if CMS begins releasing that information, MCHD will begin including it in its daily COVID-19 dashboards.
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