County nursing homes experience spike in COVID-19 cases

Published 12:10 am Thursday, July 28, 2022

SALISBURY — The Post received an anonymous tip Monday concerning a possible spike in COVID-19 cases at a nursing home in Salisbury that reflects the rapid spread of the BA.5 within Rowan County.

The tipster was concerned about the potential impact on staff at The Laurels of Salisbury. When contacted, The Laurels reported on Wednesday that there are 35 active cases of the coronavirus within the facility, 18 involving residents and 17 affecting staff. Employees who have tested positive are not on site and must be cleared for work before returning to their duties.

“While positive COVID-19 cases in these facilities are unfortunately anticipated due to the spread of the BA.5 variant across the county, it is a difficult situation for everyone involved, and we empathize with our residents, employees, families and community during this challenging time,” said the statement provided by the Laurels, which confirmed the current number of active cases.

The letter provided to the public also read that the current resident vaccination rate is 86.2% with 84% having their booster. Staff vaccination rate is at 90.6% with 47.1% being boosted. The Laurels also offers vaccine clinics at their facilities.

According to Rowan County Public Health Nursing Director Meredith Littell, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services advises masking, physical distancing and appropriate hand hygiene to prevent infection. The Laurels confirmed that its operations are following these guidelines along with the Centers for Disease Control guidance.

The CDC’s recommendation for nursing homes includes quarantining residents who are newly admitted to the facility and residents who have had close contact with someone infected if they are not up to date with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses. However, quarantine is not needed for asymptomatic residents who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations or have recovered from a coronavirus infection in the prior 90 days.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services provides a list every Tuesday of the current outbreaks in nursing homes all across the state. However, the numbers charted on the COVID-19 Ongoing Outbreaks in Congregate Living Settings found on the department’s website reflect a drastic discrepancy, reporting that the Laurels of Salisbury has only three staff cases and 11 among the residents.

The NCDHHS Office of Communications said that the difference between numbers could be caused by delay in reports, but the Laurel’s of Salisbury’s administrator, Ryan Jernigan, stated that its facility reports COVID-19 cases daily to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services.

According to the NCDHHS report as of Tuesday, seven Rowan County nursing homes are experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19 between staff and residents:

• Autumn Care of Salisbury: Six staff, two residents.

• Big Elm Retirement and Nursing Centers: 13 staff, 11 residents.

• Compass Health Care and Rehab Rowan: Two staff.

• Liberty Commons Nursing and Rehab: Three staff, seven residents.

• N.C. State Veterans Home — Salisbury: 24 staff, 33 residents.

• Trinity Oaks: 16 staff, eight residents.

It should be noted however that the discrepancies between the actual cases at The Laurels and the number of cases the state is reporting indicate anyone concerned about a family member in a facility should consider contacting the facility directly to get the most up-to-date information.