Multiple cases of COVID-19 reported at Worland nursing home

Posted 5/17/20

State health officials announced Sunday that nine people at a Worland nursing home — five staff members and four residents — have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days.

Efforts …

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Multiple cases of COVID-19 reported at Worland nursing home


State health officials announced Sunday that nine people at a Worland nursing home — five staff members and four residents — have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days.

Efforts have been made to test every employee and resident at the Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, with some results still pending, the Wyoming Department of Health said in a news release.

The cases of the new respiratory disease came to light after staff members fell ill and sought medical attention, the department said, adding that, “it is unclear at this time how the virus was introduced among the staff and residents, or how many of the newly confirmed cases are experiencing symptoms.”

Department of Health officials said they will likely visit the Worland facility to provide consultation, review the situation, interview staff and patients and conduct additional testing.

State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist reiterated that protecting older Wyoming residents at long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living centers, is the health department’s top concern and priority during the pandemic.

“We know the residents of these places are among the most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 and we have seen terrible situations occur in other nursing homes across the country,” Harrist said. “We also recognize that the nature of long-term care facilities can make it very challenging to control the spread of the virus once it’s been introduced into a specific location.”

The Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center is operated by Five Star Senior Living, a private company based in Newton, Massachusetts.

Five Star leaders said last month that they’ve been closely following recommendations from public health officials and regulators — and taking proactive measures to boost safety at all 260 of their facilities across 33 states.

Current health guidelines severely limit visits to nursing homes. The employees and "essential" visitors who enter Five Star’s facilities are screened for signs of fever or other indications of COVID-19 and all who enter must wash or sanitize their hands and put on a face mask, the company said in a general update late last month. Five Star officials said they have also implemented robust protocols to prevent and control infections.

“We continue to closely monitor all residents and team members for signs and symptoms and immediately follow recommended protocols to contact a physician and family, and isolate or send home someone exhibiting specific COVID-19 symptoms,” Five Star leaders said on April 24.

Speaking generally about the situation around the state on Sunday, Harrist said the strict limit on nursing home visits “has been helpful in Wyoming over the last couple of months, but the risk of potential exposure through staff and patients still exists.”

That’s in part because COVID-19 can be transmitted by infected people who don’t yet have symptoms — or who may never develop any symptoms despite being infected.

Harrist said the situation in Worland should serve as a reminder that everyone should continue to take precautions to avoid becoming ill with the virus or passing it along to others.

“Unfortunately, this virus is still among us,” she said.

When Washakie County’s sixth confirmed case was reported on Friday, county officials had suggested more positive tests might follow, warning that the patient — who was tested in another state — “had potential exposure to vulnerable adults.”

Seven additional Washakie County cases were then confirmed and announced Sunday.

Washakie County has now had 13 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. That’s more than double the five cases across the rest of the Big Horn Basin, with just one case in Park County and two in both Big Horn and Hot Springs counties.

Fremont County continues to have the most cases in the state, with 202 of Wyoming’s 566 lab-confirmed cases as of Sunday.

Officials announced Saturday that a Fremont County resident and member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe had become the eighth person to die in connection with COVID-19. The woman was the fifth member of the tribe to die from the disease.

In a Facebook post, the Northern Arapaho Business Council offered its condolences for the loss of the “beloved tribal members” and said the governing body would continue to help fight against the pandemic.

“It is imperative we work together to protect ourselves and others,” the council wrote.

Health department officials said the woman had other health conditions that put her at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill in connection with the novel coronavirus.

The overwhelming majority of people infected with the disease recover: 498 Wyomingites who either tested positive for COVID-19 or were suspected to have it because of their symptoms and close contact with an infected person had recovered by Sunday. However, the virus can be deadly — particularly to people who are older or have other health problems.

Symptoms can appear two to 14 days after a person is exposed to the virus. They include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

As of Sunday, state officials reported 248 active confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Wyoming. That included eight active confirmed cases in Washakie County and two active probable cases in Hot Springs County — with zero in Park and Big Horn counties.