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Health Department’s new nursing home coordinator seeks to prevent further outbreaks

By Shavonne Potts

shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — In an effort to prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks at local nursing homes, the Rowan Public Health Department has created a nursing home coordinator position, who will conduct regular check-ins with the facilities.

Ashley Brooks, who has been with the agency since 2017, has already begun to call many of the 25 nursing homes in Rowan County.

“This is a proactive commitment to our long-term care facilities in which we can directly support their needs and work to prevent outbreaks as much as possible,” said Public Health Director Nina Oliver.

Oliver said the point of the position is for prevention.

Brooks on Thursday began calling the nursing homes to make sure they have a plan in place if there is an outbreak, make sure they are properly disinfecting the facilities and to determine if they have enough personal protective equipment, said spokesman T.J. Brown.

He said it’s one way to, “enhance our contact with the facilities, those that currently don’t have outbreaks.”

An outbreak is considered such if two or more patients in a congregate living facility, such as a nursing home or prison, test positive for COVID-19. There have been three in Rowan County, which includes Liberty Commons, the Citadel of Salisbury and the N.C. State Veterans Home, which is located on the campus of the Hefner VA Medical Center.

Brown said since the beginning of this pandemic health officials had been in contact with the nursing homes via email, but they decided to increase the contact.

Brooks will be the first point-of-contact for the facilities and will share with them guidelines and the latest updates on this pandemic. Brown said there’s “just a lot of information available” and county officials want the facilities to be armed with the most current data and guidelines.

“There’s a lot of stuff because it is somewhere we haven’t been before,” Brown said.

In addition to conversing with Brooks, the nursing home administrators will continue to have a weekly call with local health officials.

Brooks will also make sure they are aware of the long-term care facilities toolkit provided by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The toolkit includes provides resources to educate staff about the basics of infection prevention, hand hygiene, and personal protective equipment (PPE) use. The toolkit also has recommendations on how to care for patients with COVID-19, preventing the spread of COVID-19, and identifying infections early.

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