(LITITZ, Pa.-LititzDailyNews.com) – After LititzDailyNews.com published an article yesterday with the COVID-19 case counts provided publicly by United Zion Retirement Center on April 27, (3 staff, 2 residents, 1 death), LititzDailyNews.com learned that infection rates were actually double the number at UZRC.
In response to questioning by LititzDailyNews.com, UZRC spokesperson Megan Weiss confirmed that at least 10 have tested positive for COVID-19 at the facility: 5 residents, 1 of whom died, and five staff members.
It is unclear if the current numbers reflect the reality of COVID-19 infection at the facility. UZRC will now come under scrutiny by the state for its infection control, including why it failed to follow a federal directive meant to protect residents at long-term care facilities from COVID-19.
UZRC TOOK 4 WEEKS TO IMPLEMENT FEDERAL GUIDELINES TO PROTECT PATIENTS
On April 2, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) directed nursing homes to “use consistent assignment (meaning the assignment of staff to certain patients and residents) for all patients and residents regardless of symptoms or COVID-19 status.”
On April 27, weeks after that CMS mandate and after the death of one resident among multiple infections, UZRC announced on April 27 that it will now make those changes.
“Our team made the decision today [April 27] to assign dedicated teams to each healthcare unit for providing resident care. These designated teams will work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among residents and team members,” it reads. Why the facility delayed acting on that federal guidance is unclear.
MASS TESTING AT UZRC
In an email yesterday, Weiss said that extensive testing is underway at the facility.
“As we have had positive test results among residents, we do need to treat all residents as if they are positive as part of the containment protocols we have in place. We are doing some extensive testing to ensure the health and safety of residents and team members,” Weiss wrote.
So far, Weiss said that 12 staff members have tested negative. She gave no report of how many residents tested negative, which could indicate that the facility’s focus has been on testing employees rather than vulnerable residents.
UZRC CONSULTS WITH STATE’S INFECTION CONTROL SPECIALISTS
UZRC has turned to the infection control specialist contracted by the state to advise long-term care and personal care facilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We are in touch with ECRI who are infection preventionist [sic] out of Philadelphia that that focused on long-term care to ensure we taking all possible measures to protect staff and residents and to prevent any spread,” Weiss wrote in an email to LititzDailyNews.com.
UZRC STAFF WHO TESTED POSITIVE RETURN TO WORK
The non-profit also plans to permit staff who previously tested positive for COVID-19 who it claims have recovered to return to work.
“3 staff members that have recovered and will be coming back to work as they have been cleared by medical professionals,” Megan Weiss, UZRC director of marketing, wrote in an email to LititzDailyNews.com. Two staff members are out due to testing positive for COVID-19, she wrote.
UZRC has been reluctant to release COVID-19 data citing privacy reasons, but but there is nothing in that law that prohibits the release of information such as dates of probable infection, dates of testing, number of COVID+ cases, and deaths, as it is information that does not directly identify patients.
A HISTORY OF VIOLATIONS AND FINES AT UNITED ZION RETIREMENT COMMUNITY
In 2018, United Zion Retirement Community was fined $156,419 by the state after a resident sustained a broken neck as the result of a fall deemed failure by UZRC staff to protect the resident from neglect, according to reports on Propublica.com, Pennsylvania DOH records, and federal records found on Medicare.gov. Staff at UZRC also failed to report the injury to the state Department of Aging as required under laws that protect residents from abuse and neglect.
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Lynn Rebuck is the editor and publisher of award-winning LititzDailyNews.com, the only independent digital news source in Lititz. Lynn is an award-winning photojournalist who was invited to the White House and has received top recognition from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association, National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and has been profiled in Editor & Publisher magazine for her unparalleled dedication to publishing LititzDailyNews.com to benefit the community.