Cases of COVID-19 now are being reported at multiple area nursing homes, potentially endangering one of the most at-risk populations during the pandemic, and an outbreak of 50 cases has occurred at one local nursing home.
According to information released to the family member of a resident at Kokomo Healthcare Center through an automated update last Friday, 50 cases of COVID-19 were reported among the residents at the nursing home. That outbreak contributed the lion’s share of cases in local nursing homes, which Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman said represented between 60 and 65 cases of the county’s total of 297.
Howard County aligned with Gov. Eric Holcomb’s policy to not name specific nursing homes where COVID-19 cases were occurring, but Wyman said multiple facilities were being impacted by the virus. Wyman said he didn’t want to specify exactly how many nursing homes were reporting positive cases but said that a few represented areas of concern for the county.
“I really don’t want to at this time just because some of it is so, literally some of it is just one employee here or one here. It’s not a significant deal,” said Wyman. “There’s a couple, three, that I think are the ones that we need to be focusing on.”
Kokomo Healthcare Center likely is among those. The 50 cases at Kokomo Healthcare Center likely make up the bulk of the residents there. According to a consumer report from the state, the facility has a capacity of 80 beds, with the last reported census in January showing 78 residents were at the home. One employee also tested positive for COVID-19, and one resident died there within the past 24 hours of the Friday update. All residents testing positive for the virus had been quarantined.
Calls to Kokomo Healthcare Center went unreturned prior to deadline.
As of Monday, 12 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported in Howard County. According to Wyman, nursing home residents represented six of the county’s deaths.
Since the pandemic began, the state has declined to make information publicly available concerning which specific nursing homes were incurring cases of COVID-19.
In late April, Howard County’s total case count increased dramatically, with local officials primarily blaming the outbreak at Logansport’s Tyson plant as a reason, along with an outbreak at one unspecified local nursing home.
While local restrictions were easing along with Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan to reopen the state, nursing homes in Howard County were keeping restrictions in place regarding visitation and other procedures.
“I think it’s important for folks to know that it’s why we still have our nursing homes on lockdown because they are a very vulnerable population,” said Wyman. “I think it sends a very clear message to anybody in our community who is elderly or has underlying health conditions that this is incredibly serious. Just like we ask our folks in the nursing homes to stay put, we’re asking people who are elderly and have underlying health conditions to continue to stay at home as much as possible and be protected.”
Last Friday marked the first time demographic data was released relating to Howard County’s deaths on the state’s tracking system.
According to an update Monday, seven of the county’s 12 deaths were over the age of 80, while one death occurred in an individual between the ages of 70 and 79. Two deaths were between the ages of 60 and 69, with one between the ages of 50 and 59. One more was reported Monday, which occurred in an individual between the ages of 40 and 49.
While Wyman said he was concerned about a few of the local nursing homes where multiple cases were occurring, he said a large concern remained to ensure that local hospitals were not overwhelmed, and he said so far that goal had been successful. As of Monday, 297 positive cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Howard County. That was up from 256 on Monday last week.
“I think you know our local board of health policy has been to not release the names of nursing homes, really, I just look at the total caseload of them so that I can monitor and measure what the potential ramification might be to a hospital and their capacity there,” said Wyman. “So far that’s all been working out OK from a management standpoint.”