Casey’s Pond resident who tested positive for COVID-19 has died; 19 residents have virus
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A Casey’s Pond resident who tested positive for COVID-19 has died, the first death after a recent outbreak of 19 cases, according to an update posted on the senior living community’s website late Saturday.
“It’s a sad inevitability that when our community disease prevalence rises, then the risk to our more vulnerable populations is higher,” said Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County chief medical officer.
It has not yet been determined if COVID-19 was related to the death, though the person had tested positive for the virus before they died, the update said.
As cases have surged in Routt County and across the country, nursing homes and longterm care facilities have seen the largest increase in cases in six months, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Over half of all longterm care facilities in the country have experienced an outbreak of COVID-19, including 873 more of them last week.
Mass testing at Casey’s Pond has turned up 19 cases of COVID-19 among residents and five cases among employees in the Doak Walker House skilled nursing neighborhood, according to the update. An additional staff member in the Grove assisted living neighborhood also tested positive.
Since Nov. 16, Casey’s Pond has conducted 176 tests on residents and another 131 tests on employees.
Belynda Harte, whose mother lives in the Doak Walker skilled nursing neighborhood, said news of the death and increasing COVID-19 cases is troubling. Mitigation efforts have kept her out of the building since March, and she has only seen her mother during outdoor visits.
Still, Harte said communication and the staff at Casey’s Pond have been very good with them, providing frequent and timely updates. She said she got a call alerting her to four more cases among residents and a staff member at Doak Walker on Saturday.
“The staff, they are terrific,” Harte said. “Those nurses are working 12-hour shifts with these N-95s; it is not easy. We have to just help them, support them.”
Routt County residents 60 and older actually have been underrepresented in case counts in the past two weeks, with close to 60% of cases coming from people between the ages of 20 and 49, according to the county’s dashboard. But at Wednesday’s Routt County Board of Health meeting, epidemiologist Fritha Morrison said she expected that to change.
“We know it kind of tends to flip flop back and forth,” Morrison said. “Right now, our age distribution is younger, so I would expect that, in the coming weeks, it will shift older again, which should concern us because that means potentially more hospitalizations.”
Casey’s Pond is conducting bi-weekly testing of employees with oral swab PCR tests. Results are coming back within 36 to 48 hours allowing the facility to learn about new cases sooner. They also test any resident living in the assisted living or skilled nursing neighborhoods who leaves the building .
What most concerns people at Casey’s Pond is how prevalent the disease is in the local community and how hard it is to detect in people, who are asymptomatic.
“Data shows that as the positive case rate goes up in towns and cities, it increases the risk of infection for longterm care communities,” said Casey’s Pond Executive Director Brad Boatwright in an email. “A resident who leaves for a critical care medical appointment, or a team member who takes every single precaution but needs to get food to feed their family, could unknowingly be exposed. We are dependent on the greater community to help us.”
Health officials have consistently warned that more disease prevalence in the community will inevitably lead to cases at places like Casey’s Pond or The Haven in Hayden because of the vulnerability of their populations.
When staff need to care for a resident who has tested positive for the virus, they wear full personal protective equipment, including masks, goggles, face shields, gowns, gloves and shoe covers.
Employees and critical visitors are screened for any signs or symptoms of the virus, including a temperature check before they enter the building. Masks are required throughout the community with the lone exception of within a resident’s apartment when a team member is not there.
Shared spaces, like dining rooms and the salon, have closed, and residents are having meals delivered.
“The Casey’s Pond team is dedicated and caring. They want to protect their house,” Boatright said. “Our families know we care for each other and residents just like a family.”
This is the seventh COVID-19-related death of a resident at Casey’s Pond, and all but one of Routt County’s deaths have been of people living in longterm care settings.
Despite that, Harrington said he believes local longterm care providers have done well at trying to keep the virus out and prevent outbreaks.
“Our facilities here in Routt County, I actually think, have done a good job,” Harrington said. “I think they have been able to do a lot of things better than we have seen in other places in the country, but it is still a struggle for them.”
Because of the rise in cases locally, The Haven, which had two residents die of the virus earlier this year, is no longer allowing outdoor visits, according to an update on its website. The update said they will consider allowing indoor visits with a plexiglass barrier, but only after “community case counts decrease significantly.”
Harrington said places like Casey’s Pond have learned a lot through the course of the pandemic about how to best handle mitigation efforts. Late last month, there was an outbreak among employees that did not spread to any residents, a sign to Harrington that their efforts were working.
Harrington said outbreaks at a place like Casey’s Pond is trying on the staff, not only because people are getting sick, but because they have a relationship with the people they care for.
“It is not just a number,” Harrington said. “These are people that the staff at these facilities know and care for. They are sad about this just as much as any of the rest of us are.”
Boatwright said employees appreciate signs of support on windows and care packages they receive.
“Our team has shown extreme dedication and resiliency over these last eight months,” Boatwright said. “Just like a family, we are all rallying around each other and lifting each other during this difficult time.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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