Local nursing home site of COVID-19 outbreak

Published 4:16 pm Thursday, April 9, 2020

By Josh Bergeron and Shavonne Potts


SALISBURY — Residents at a local nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19 amid an outbreak at the facility, according to state data and Rowan Public Health Director Nina Oliver.

Oliver confirmed there was an outbreak at The Citadel, a skilled nursing facility owned by Accordius Health on Julian Road, but would not speak to specifics of the outbreak. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services also has noted that a single nursing home in Rowan County is the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“An outbreak is defined as two or more positives in a congregate setting,” Oliver said.

Four nurses who have worked at the Citadel and spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity said they were aware of at least four patients who had tested positive, some of whom have been hospitalized, as well as one staff member who has worked in the facility. The workers spoke to the Post in separate interviews.

In contrast with data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and statements from Oliver and workers, an Accordius Health statement said there was only one “confirmed resident case” at the Salisbury facility.

“Early on scenario planning and in anticipation of  the projected community need for recovery from this virus, senior leaders from Accordius developed plans with our hospital partners in the greater Charlotte area and across the state and established multiple distinct care units,” Chief Operating Officer Kim Morrow said in an emailed statement. “Our unit at the Citadel Salisbury is our second to engage and is ready to care for patients”

Morrow said she did not address a question about staff positives because there were none.

Oliver said she could not say how many people were tested in the facility and if individuals had been hospitalized.

“I can say what they have been doing is very appropriate in following guidelines,” said Oliver, noting the Health Department’s staff had spoke with supervisors at the facility and the director of nursing.

Morrow said that all of the company’s facilities are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the local health department.

“These are unprecedented times we are navigating,” Morrow said. “The commitment of our staff and leaders is appreciated — they are all so amazing! The support of one another in every community across the United States is needed more than ever before! We have to ban together during these times and lift each other up otherwise fear and anxiety will win and that is no good for anyone.”

Nurses who talked to the Post, though, said they were speaking out because of worries about care of patients who had not yet been tested — some of whom were showing symptoms of COVID-19 — that hazard pay was not being provided to staff and that they believed the ownership company had not taken the threat of COVID-19 seriously. The nurses and a fifth worker who was not a nurse said there had not been widespread testing in the nursing home, including not providing testing to staff. All five also described personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies being in short supply.

Oliver said the Rowan County Public Health Department is investigating the outbreak and working with the facility to mitigate the situation. She went on to say public health officials are working with the facility and have acquired additional tests.

“We will continue to monitor and assist them,” Oliver said.

The website for Accordius Health, meanwhile, says the company does not have any cases of COVID-19 in any of its centers and that it has implemented “extensive infection prevention protocols” and restricted visitation. The company lists a COVID-19 hotline on its website. Calling that number produces a recorded message that talks about steps the company is taking to limit the spread of the virus and its associated disease as well as encouraging callers to make sure patients’ emergency contact information is up to date.

According to N.C. Health and Human Services, an outbreak is considered over after 28 days have passed since the date of symptom onset of the last case. In situations where all persons in a congregate living setting — nursing homes, residential care facilities or jails or prisons — test positive for COVID-19, the outbreak will be considered over when all persons have recovered or been released from isolation.