A staff member at an Ashland nursing home has tested positive for coronavirus, prompting an intense county effort to contain what could turn into a deadly outbreak.
The worker tested positive at Court Manor Health Services-North Shore Healthcare, account to the Ashland County Health Department.
Nursing home outbreaks can be devastating. Across the country, more than 230,000 cases had been confirmed in nursing facilities as of mid-September, and a quarter of those patients — more than 55,000 residents — had died. Nursing home residents often already suffer from compromised health and tend to live in extremely close quarters, aiding virus transmission.
“The Ashland County Health Department is working closely with Court Manor Health Services leadership and staff to conduct a thorough investigation to track, trace, and contain the virus,” Elizabeth Szot, Ashland County health officer, said in a prepared release. “We want to assure the residents of Court Manor, their family members, and facility staff that extra steps are being taken to protect residents because they live in a setting that puts them in close proximity with a larger number of people and they rely on staff and volunteers for care.”
The announcement came Tuesday as Wisconsin reported more than 2,300 new coronavirus cases and 17 new deaths, the highest total since May.
“We are in a crisis right now,” Wisconsin’s chief health officer, Ryan Westergaard, told the Green Bay Press Gazette Tuesday. “The likelihood that this is going to get much worse before it gets better is a real one.”
The state also reported Tuesday that hospital beds across Wisconsin quickly are filling, forcing some institutions to transfer patients to other care facilities.
North Shore Healthcare on Tuesday sought to reassure families that it is working to contain the outbreak.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, we have been fighting relentlessly to ensure our residents and staff are safe. We are working closely with the Ashland County Health Department, as well as the Wisconsin Department of Health on the appropriate next steps to care for all, including following all protocols on frequency of testing for residents and staff. We feel that through the testing process we can identify and isolate any residents or additional staff that may be affected,” Kristen Mueller, senior director of communication for North Shore, said in a release.
The Ashland County Health Department does not release the names of staff that have tested positive for COVID-19 because the strategies employed by the health department to protect the community also seek to ensure the privacy of individuals and their families.
A public health investigation is initiated when a single positive case is identified in a long-term care facility, or when two or more cases are identified in group housing, health care facilities, workplaces, and other settings such as restaurants. A case investigation and contact tracing are conducted with all people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their contacts, regardless of the setting.
As of Tuesday, 139 people Ashland County residents had tested positive for COVID-19.
“COVID-19 can be spread by asymptomatic people, meaning people who are not experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath,” Szot said in the release. “In addition to maintaining at least six feet of physical distance as much as possible, we recommend that everyone wear cloth face coverings, frequently wash their hands, and cover coughs and sneezes to prevent catching and spreading disease.”