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COVID-19 outbreak widens at Beth Sholom, other Richmond-area nursing facilities

RICHMOND — A second resident has died of COVID-19 at a retirement community in Hanover County, as long-term care facilities in the Richmond area struggle to stop the spread of the coronavirus among vulnerable residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, senior apartments and memory care units for people with dementia.

The Harmony Collection at Hanover said Wednesday that an 87-year-resident had died at a local hospital after testing positive for the disease. The facility did not specify the resident’s gender or in which part of the community the person lived.

Seven residents and nine employees of the Mechanicsville retirement community have tested positive for COVID-19. Two residents have died. Three employees, including the executive director, have recovered from their exposure and returned to work.

"We are maintaining a total commitment to being vigilant and adhering to federal and state guidance to protect the health and safety of our residents and associates," Harmony said in a notice to residents and families on Wednesday.

Concerns about the coronavirus pandemic in long-term care facilities have focused primarily on Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in western Henrico, which has had 45 deaths from COVID-19, and more than 80 residents and 35 employees confirmed with the disease.

But the virus spread dramatically over the weekend at Beth Sholom Senior Living, also in western Henrico. The facility reported late Tuesday that 25 residents and staff have been confirmed with the virus – up from seven residents last Thursday. The statement didn’t specify how many were staff or residents.

Morris Funk, president and CEO of Beth Sholom, said the facility had notified families of those confirmed with the virus and "we are working closely with them to coordinate the care of their loved one."

All of the cases have been within community’s health care center, Funk said, but the virus has spread beyond a single room and floor.

"We have patients with confirmed cases of coronavirus within all units of the Healthcare Center," he said.

Funk called Beth Sholom "a microcosm for the state of Virginia," and reassured residents and families that "the vast majority" of Virginians with COVID-19 "are doing just fine."

"While there are signs we may be getting closer to a peak, only time will tell," he said.

Other Richmond-area long-term care facilities also are trying to contain the virus’ spread after confirming cases with their residents and staff.

Eleven residents and three staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at The Virginia Home in Richmond’s Randolph neighborhood near Maymont Park.

All of the infected residents live on the second floor of the facility, which tested all of the roughly 30 residents on that floor, said Bob Crouse, president and CEO.

None has died from the disease and six residents who had tested positive “have recovered and are out of isolation,” Crouse said.

Lakewood, a continuing care retirement community in western Henrico County, confirmed a fifth positive case on Monday. The facility, owned by LifeSpire Virginia, formerly known as Virginia Baptist Homes, said two residents tested positive for COVID-19 – one in assisted living and the other in the skilled nursing facility.

Three staff also have tested positive – a nursing supervisor, a contract nurse practitioner and a janitor.

“We’ve begun testing staff who work in these areas,” said Peter Robinson, vice president of public relations at LifeSpire, which is based in Glen Allen.

“All of the residents are now isolated in their rooms,” he said.

LifeSpire said in a blog post this week that it began preparing for the virus in early March and suspended all communal dining and group activities on March 14.

The first two cases – involving the housekeeper and nurse practitioner – were confirmed April 2. A resident and nurse supervisor tested positive on April 10, and a second resident on April 13.

On April 6, after the first two confirmed cases, LifeSpire said it required staff who work directly with patients to wear medical-grade face masks. The company provided cloth face coverings to employees who do not interact with direct-care staff.

“We have been very fortunate,” Robinson said. “We have not had problems getting [personal protective equipment] for our staff.”


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