Editorial: First-in-state status should bring attention

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 28, 2020

144 — That’s the number of positive COVID-19 cases at the Citadel nursing home on Julian Road in Salisbury. There are 16 deaths associated with the facility, too, according to the Rowan County Health Department.

If the Citadel was its own county, it would be in the top 25% for its number of positive cases, according to state data from Monday. With 16, it would also be among the highest death totals in the state. Because state and local data don’t always match up, its exact place is not clear.

It is clear, however, that things are worse than previously reported and far worse than the facility has disclosed to family members, even after persistent reporting from the Post and others. It’s important that the general public understand the degree of severity at the facility. The 144 cases includes 34 staff members, meaning that the coronavirus-caused disease was widespread among workers in addition to residents.

Approximately 11% of people who have tested positive at the facility have died. That percentage is higher once staff are removed. And the percentage is many times higher than the state and somewhat higher than Rowan County as a whole, where there is just one death outside of a nursing home.

It’s hard to ignore years of complaints and citations by state regulators in asking, “How did the Citadel get here.” Accordius Health took over the facility just a few months ago and ultimately bears the largest share of blame for not doing more to slow the outbreak, but years of problems contributed to the current situation.

There will be a time to continue questioning what went wrong and for an after-action review, including decisions made by Accordius Health. But we hope the Monday release of more specific nursing home data by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services will draw attention from across the state to the local facility. That data showed the biggest nursing home outbreak in the state was at the Julian Road nursing home.

Normally, Salisbury and Rowan County would shun attention casting the community in a negative light, but this is one where more eyes could result in additional resources to help those who have tested positive. Citadel residents might say more health care workers would be among the most helpful items; they’ve reported to the Post and other news outlets single employees tending to dozens of patients during the outbreak.

Community groups who have generously given their time, money and attention to hospital workers who are much-deserving also should ask whether they can do the same for the workers and patients at the Citadel. If, as the company said in a letter posted online about the Citadel, “it remains committed to keeping our residents safe and cared for,” Accordius Health must make it easy for community groups to do that without further spreading the virus.