State assessment team battles COVID-19 at nursing home

A Maryland assessment team arrives at the Cumberland Healthcare Center to help battle COVID-19 on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Photo by CTN - John Smith)

CUMBERLAND — There aren’t enough COVID-19 tests to give every resident and staff member at a local nursing home that experienced a significant jump in cases of the disease over the past few days.

The Allegany County Health Department said the number of COVID-19 cases across the county jumped to 59 Monday.

The majority of the new cases are from residents and staff members at Cumberland Healthcare Center, which, as of Monday evening, had 33 patients and seven staff members that were fighting the virus. 

Two of the staff members are Mineral County, West Virginia, residents and not included in Allegany County's case count.

“All (CHC) residents will be tested as soon as test kits are provided,” Fred Stratmann, spokesman and attorney for CommuniCare Family of Companies, which owns the center, said via text message.

CHC is a skilled nursing facility that offers long-term rehabilitation and care for senior citizens, has roughly 110 residents and 130 employees.

Stratmann provided the Cumberland Times-News a report issued by a state assessment team that inspected CHC on Friday.

Overall, “the staff and leadership of this facility are doing a fine job controlling their outbreak and being proactive” in reducing spread of the disease, the report states.

Additionally, as part of an infection control measure, CHC created a COVID-19 isolation unit with at least 20 beds that uses plastic sheeting to cordon off a section of the building that has an independent ventilation/air conditioning system.

“Your isolation unit appears well designed and your residents appear well cared for,” it states.

On Friday, 10 residents had tested positive for COVID-19, with the first case confirmed on April 8, the report states.

"CHC has the additional staffing and bed space in their isolation unit to manage more confirmed (COVID-19) positive residents and have demonstrated so far that they are medically and logistically able to manage cases appropriately,” the report states. 

“If additional skilled nursing beds are needed for COVID patients in the county, this facility may be an appropriate location for them, pending their continued open isolation bed availability and appropriate medical management of current patients.”

CHC “could also benefit from additional COVID testing kits and N95 fit-testing, both of which could be arranged through local or state health departments or hospital systems,” the report states.

Some testing kits were provided by the Allegany County Health Department, UPMC Western Maryland, and the Western Maryland Regional Laboratory, according to ACHD Public Information Coordinator Brenda Caldwell.

“While we have provided some of the testing kits, the health department does not do specimen collection or perform testing of samples,” she said via email.

On Saturday, 21 CHC residents and two staff members were tested for COVID-19, ACHD said via press release.

“The virus spreads easily, especially in places like long-term care facilities where many individuals live together,” Jenelle Mayer, health officer for Allegany County, said via the release. 

"It is not easy to out-maneuver this virus, particularly in congregate living facilities,” Dr. Jennifer Corder, medical deputy health officer for Allegany and Garrett counties, said via the release. “Health care workers at Cumberland Healthcare Center, like health care workers everywhere, give of themselves selflessly and deserve the support of the community.”

Stratmann echoed that statement.

CHC staff members have “done a great job with this crisis and they deserve recognition for their efforts,” Stratmann said Monday via email. 

“More importantly, the families of residents and the community at large can be assured that our residents are receiving the very best of care,” he said.

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