SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – On Thursday, Greene County reported its 18th COVID-19 related death in August and 29th overall with the passing of a man in his 80′s with underlying medical conditions.
The individual was also associated with long-term care and so far 21 of those 29 deaths in Greene County have taken place at various senior care facilities.
Dr. Randall Williams is the Governor Mike Parson’s right-hand man in fighting COVID-19 and as the Director of the State Department of Health and Senior Services, he was asked what his biggest concern was these days.
Was it young people going back to school?
Our nursing homes?
“Long term health facilities,” he replied. “I get up every day at 3:30 in the morning and I immediately worry about that. You have a strikingly high mortality rate with senior citizens in congregate care facilities.
Considering 72 percent of Greene County’s deaths have been in senior care facilities and 515 of the state’s 1,200 nursing homes have reported cases, that’s understandable. And it’s also why those facilities are now required to report any case to the state within 24 hours.
“If one resident, one staff member gets positive, we test everybody,” Dr. Williams said. “
The increased testing is part of what’s called “a box-in strategy” the state is using to deal with hot spots.
“When you test these people you’re isolating them, you’re quarantining, you’re getting the staff out who are positive, you’re moving those people out of rooms if there are two people in a room,” Dr. Williams explained as to what the strategy entailed. “And I think it just raises awareness.”
Raising awareness is just as important as those other steps because in a time when a lot of us think we don’t have to worry if we’re not older or immune-compromised, consider this…while 11 percent of those tested between ages of 20 and 30 have come up positive, just three percent of the 130,000 nursing home residents tested were positive.
The younger age groups are experiencing the biggest jumps in cases, and you have to understand that the virus is not getting into these long-term care facilities on its own.
“If you’re not careful it will get interjected into nursing homes through going to see grandma or granddad or working there,” Dr. Williams said. “There is no one that’s no risk. I’m working right now with a 24 year-old who’s got pneumonia and a blood clot. Even if you believe statistically you’re more likely to be low risk, what I try to get people to realize is even if it’s true for you if you give it to your father, mother, uncle, coach or teacher do you really want it to weight on you that you gave it to them? I don’t want to isolate for two weeks and I don’t want everybody who’s been around me to have to quarantine for two weeks. So there are a lot of really good reasons to not want to get COVID-19.”
For those who have loved ones in a senior care home wondering when things will get better?
“What I would say is that I know it’s hard, but I truly believe if we can just get to December this will get much better,” Dr. Williams predicted. “Much of our strategy now is just bridging until we can get a vaccine. As early as November maybe December I think we’ll be vaccinating our residents and our health care workers.”
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