COVID-19 outbreaks in Pine Belt long-term care facilities

Mecklenburg County health officials confirmed Wednesday they have confirmed outbreaks at two...
Mecklenburg County health officials confirmed Wednesday they have confirmed outbreaks at two nursing home facilities and investigating a possible third.(Pixabay (custom credit) | Pixabay)
Updated: Jun. 3, 2020 at 10:40 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WDAM) - The Mississippi State Department of Health released a list of long-term care facilities in the state that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks.

The MSDH released the names of the facilities and the total number of cases and deaths at each Wednesday night after a court ruling and a recommendation from the state attorney general.

In the Pine Belt, 15 long-term care facilities have active outbreaks as of June 2.

The facility with the highest number of cases, Bedford Care Center in Hattiesburg, has reported 92 patient cases and 55 employee cases.

We spoke with Dr. Rambod Rouhbakhsh about the issue.

“The people that live in these long-term care facilities are often quite susceptible to the illness," Rouhbakhsh said. “So, they have close quarters in which they live in, they have underlying comorbidity. And often times they have suppressed immune systems.”

There are ways to protect people in long term care facilities.

“The ones that have the illness need to be quarantined. The ones that don’t have the illness need to be protected with masks,” Rouhbakhsh said.

Rouhbakhsh says most likely the new cases are being brought in to the facility from the outside.

“As more people interact with them that are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, the likelihood of them getting that disease is much, much higher,” said Rouhbakhsh.

He believes as restrictions are relaxed, more cases will come about and make their way into long-term care facilities.

“We absolutely must assume that every other person we interact with is a carrier or an infectious carrier of this disease," Rouhbakhsh said. “The basic take home message is we need to be masked at all times when we interact with other humans.”

According to the MSDH, the following facilities have reported COVID-19 cases:

Forrest County

  • Bedford Care Center of Hattiesburg: 55 employee cases, 92 resident cases and 25 resident deaths.
  • Windham House of Hattiesburg: 1 employee case.
  • Hattiesburg Health and Rehab: 3 employee cases.

Jones County

  • Hillside ICF‐IID Ellisville State School: 12 employee cases, 11 resident cases and 1 resident death.
  • Care Center of Laurel: 35 employee cases, 42 resident cases and 10 resident deaths.
  • Paul D Cotton ICF‐IID Ellisville State School: 4 employee cases.
  • Pecan Grove ICF‐IID Ellisville State School: 15 employee cases and 9 resident cases.
  • Laurelwood Community Living Center: 7 employee cases, 20 resident cases and 3 resident deaths.
  • Comfort Care Nursing Center: 22 employee cases, 18 resident cases and 6 resident deaths.
  • Cottonwood Manor: 1 employee case and 6 resident cases.

Covington County

  • Arrington Living Center: 2 employee cases
  • Landmark of Collins: 1 employee case

Jefferson Davis County

  • Jefferson Davis Extended Care Facility: 2 employee cases, 3 resident cases and 1 resident death.

Marion County

  • The Grove: 4 employee cases, 15 resident cases and 2 resident deaths.

Wayne County

  • Ellisville State School Waynesboro: 2 employee cases.

Full Statement from Bedford Care Center:

The mission of Bedford Care Centers has always been protecting the health and well being of our residents, which we have been striving to do during the novel corona virus pandemic. From the first day we were notified of the presence of COVID-19 in the U.S., and then Mississippi, we took extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of our residents, well beyond the CDC’s recommended guidelines.

Bedford has a total of eight facilities and we care for a total of 620 residents. The same plan was put into place at each of the eight facilities, including the same care, safeguards and processes. However, while the rest of the facilities have a low number of cases, the hot spot in Hattiesburg can be wholly attributed to the nature of this silent virus, and not the care rendered at the facility.

Early on in the pandemic, the focus was on hospital systems with the goal of preventing them from being overwhelmed with the potential influx of patients. Nursing homes across the country quickly found themselves in the position of having to make do with what they had in order to care for residents and protect their staff.

However, like the rest of the industry, it is particularly difficult to stop an invisible enemy in a place as densely populated and with so many unique challenges as a long-term care facility. Though caregivers take every precaution possible to prevent the spread of the virus, they are in constant contact with the residents, bathing them, feeding them and providing general care.

Nursing homes are unique to the rest of the population because, statistically, at least 60 to 70 percent of residents have some level of dementia. It is nearly impossible to ask a resident with dementia to wear a mask, wash their hands or keep a social distance from others.

Throughout this ordeal, we have remained transparent with employees, residents and their families, making sure everyone is aware of the situation within the facilities. We are incredibly proud of the work we have done to minimize risk at all of our facilities to maintain the health and well being of those entrusted to our care. Likewise, we are incredibly proud of our staff for doing everything possible during the unprecedented time, often risking their own lives in the process, to keep our residents safe.

We knew early on that nursing homes were going to be a hot bed for the virus, simply due to the challenges they pose. Our goal through the end of this is to unite and learn from the mistakes made early on as a nation so we aren’t doomed to repeat them, which means paying more attention to the most vulnerable among us. A nation that does not care for its elders is a nation that is doomed to fail.

You can view the complete list here.

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