SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Department of Health is reviewing a Salt Lake Veterans Home’s processes and procedures after dozens of residents and staff test positive for coronavirus despite efforts to keep the virus out.
“There has been an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at the William E. Christoffersen Veterans Home in Salt Lake City,” the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs Executive Director, Gary Harter, announced during the state’s coronavirus briefing Thursday afternoon.
Wednesday night, Harter said the UDVMA received test results from the second wave of testing, which took place on May 26. The results found a shocking 41-residents and 17-staff members now testing positive for the virus.
On May 8, UDVMA was informed that a single resident at the facility had tested positive. That same day, the Utah Department of Health and Utah National Guard went to the facility and tested all of the residents and healthcare employees.
The initial test brought to light a total of five resident cases and three staff member cases. At the time, all COVID positive residents were transferred to the VA Medical Center.
Now, as the virus has continued to spread throughout the facility, residents have been quarantined to their rooms. A checkpoint has also been set up to enter campus grounds – staff members ask questions, check temperatures and require masks for anyone who is entering the area (by appointment only).
Still, at this time, it is unknown how the virus made its way into the facility.
“We’ve not had any visitors in the facility since mid-March, [the facility] followed all the CDC, the CMS, their part of the Department of Health guidance overall,” Harter said.
“The first positive case was a resident who exhibited symptoms of COVID-19, the initial employees who tested positive were asymptomatic, in fact at the time of testing, including both rounds of testing, 25-residents and 15-employees were asymptomatic,” Harter said. “I think some of it speaks to the insidious nature of asymptomatic spread throughout any facility.”
UDVMA owns four Veterans nursing homes in the state, all of which are contracted by a third-party-provider, Avalon Health Care, to operate and manage the facilities.
Avalon Health Care was not immediately available for comment. However, Harter said the provider is engaged with the Department of Health and the VA to develop a path forward.
“We’re certainly testing all the rest of our facilities as part of our Utah’s plan to test all long-term care facilities as well, we’re working hard,” Harter said.
Harter said the Department of Health members would be at the facility Thursday, to review its processes and make recommendations.
“To the families: the care and health of your loved one is our top priority, our department is dedicated, Avalon and its employees are committed, and we are all doing everything we can to protect the residents and staff,” Harter continued. “This is an extremely challenging virus but we are determined to beat it.”