By WSFA Staff | April 16, 2020 at 4: 37 PM CDT – Updated April 16 at 5: 37 PM
LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) – Despite efforts to keep COVID-19 at bay, one of Alabama’s largest nursing homes has been hit particularly hard, leading to multiple infections and a probe of several deaths.
Arbor Springs Health & Rehab Center in Opelika reported its first two positive cases of coronavirus in late March when an employee and a resident were confirmed to have the respiratory virus.
At that point, the state hadn’t yet confirmed its 400th case. Already, though, a hot spot was developing with 40 patients in Lee County where Arbor Springs is located.
“COVID-19 has been hard for all of us,” admitted Administrator Annie Swanson, who said the facility moved to stem any spread of the pandemic before the state’s first case was ever confirmed in mid-March.
Like other nursing homes, Arbor Springs halted visitors from entering the home and limited contact among residents “well before we were required to do so by the state and federal government,” Swanson said.
“Despite our best efforts, the virus found its way into Arbor Springs,” she went on.
In the weeks to follow, cases at the home climbed from the initial two on March 25 to at least 56 residents by mid-April. Forty-two of those cases were confirmed in the facility’s first round of testing and many had to be hospitalized.
“We have also had 23 of our 231 employees test positive for the virus,” Swanson confirmed, bringing the total number of infected individuals to 79. Nine of the workers have since recovered and returned to work.
Nine residents who tested positive have since died, the administrator said, but the Alabama Department of Public Health has ruled out the virus in two of those deaths. No determinations have been made for the other seven. Three were on hospice care before the outbreak started.
“It has created unique challenges for skilled nursing facilities whose residents’ age and health make them more vulnerable to infection,” Swanson explained, speaking of the pandemic.
Currently, Swanson says Arbor Springs is handling 21 active cases of the virus, including in 15 residents “who have never exhibited any symptoms.” All residents with the virus are being isolated and monitored closely for any change in their condition.
“We have been open and forthcoming with our residents, their families, and our staff during this difficult time,” Swanson said. “We believe our efforts to combat the virus are showing results, and we will continue to do everything necessary to make sure we keep moving in the right direction.”
As of Thursday, ADPH had confirmed more than 4,300 cases of the illness, along with 85 deaths.
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