A significant cluster of COVID-19 cases in a Mobile nursing home has led to the death of multiple residents and one staff member — an ongoing situation that has highlighted what city officials say remains one of their biggest concerns about the viral pandemic locally.
Bryan Jones, CEO of Crowne Health Care, confirmed over the weekend that 49 residents and 45 employees from the company’s facility on Navco Road have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak began in March. Nine of the residents have died and several others have been hospitalized.
“Our employees are fighting a valiant fight against the most sinister threat we have ever faced,” Jones said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of any of our residents at any time. Obviously, some of our residents come to us for the purpose of spending their last years in our care, but we are particularly stricken by the pain and anxiety that has been created by this pandemic.”
Since April 13, there have been no new confirmed COVID-19 cases at the facility, though there are 23 residents who’ve previously tested positive. Of those, 22 are reported asymptomatic and one has only shown “mild” symptoms. Sixteen residents are currently hospitalized as are two employees, Jones said. One staff member has died.
As a private business, Crowne Health Care isn’t required to share information about the outbreak, its residents or employees with the media. The company has previously stated that it has been communicating daily with the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD) for weeks now.
Dr. Rendi Murphree, an epidemiologist with MCHD, has previously said that this particular outbreak is one of multiple “clusters” that public health officials are investigating in local long term care facilities, though unlike Crowne Health Care, the others have voluntarily disclosed any information.
According to Murphree, whether it’s a nursing home or a jail, transmissions can accelerate rapidly in locations where residents are living in close quarters and staff are working throughout a building. Such a COVID-19 cluster has already been identified among officers and inmates at Mobile Metro Jail.
“We worry about this in normal times, not just during a pandemic. There are several long term care facilities that have multiple cases among their residents and health care workers, and we’re working very closely with them to help slow the spread of those cases,” Murphree said. “We’re also regularly talking with our long term care facilities that don’t currently have any COVID positive residents or employees so we can provide them with assistance and lessons learned at other facilities.”
As for Crowne Health Care, Murphree has previously said that the outbreak seems to be being brought under control by the staff. According to Jones, the Crowne Health Care on Navco Road began efforts this week to systematically employ and professionally sanitize an entire wing of the facility.
Members from a specialized unit with Alabama’s National Guard were previously deployed to help sanitize and disinfect nursing homes throughout the state that, like Crowne Health Care and others throughout the United States, have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 outbreaks.
Local officials have indicated that Crowne Health Care will also be seeking assistance from the National Guard and has also received donations of personal protective equipment from the city of Mobile.
As the building is sanitized section by section, Jones said patients would be reintroduced to those areas but only after they have tested negative for COVID-19 twice. He said the current plan is to continue that process throughout the building to “confine and eradicate” the virus completely.
In addition to the outbreak, Crowne Health Care also recently made the news after the family of a resident claimed their loved one had died of COVID-19 but they weren’t ever informed by the facility.
However, officials with MCHD later revealed that the resident in question had actually been incorrectly marked as having died from CVOID-19 even though they’d never been tested for the disease.
The mistake, which Murphree called a “clerical error,” was made on the resident’s death certificate — something MCHD personnel, not the staff and Crowne Health Care, is tasked with recording.
“That situation is unfortunate, and when it was recognized, the facility reached out to the family of that resident and talked with them to explain the situation,” Murphree said. “I think that the family was very appreciative of the nursing home for everything they’d done for their loved one during her time being cared for there. That was just a small clerical error.”
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