5/5 UPDATE: Carl McAloose, the CEO of Luthercare, the faith-based non-profit that operates Luther Acres, has refused an interview and now refuses to permit his staff to reply to questions from this publication. In an email, he made personal attacks on the editor and demeaning remarks about this award-winning news site. This will not dissuade us from publishing the truth. Families of residents in Lititz nursing homes are not receiving information on their loved ones. Many have learned of deaths at these facilities only through our stories. They have written to thank us for our reporting.
5/1 UPDATE: The case count was increased Saturday 5/1 at noon to 52 after publication of this story following receipt of an email from Luthercare spokesperson Amy Kenn, who wrote that she initially provided an incorrect count. LititzDailyNews.com had been trying since Thursday to get an accurate total case count from Luthercare.
(LITITZ, Pa.-LititzDailyNews.com) – Nine residents have died in an outbreak of COVID-19 at Luther Acres in Lititz which has sickened at least
47 52 at the long-term care facility, according to calculations based on an announcement by Luthercare, the non-profit organization that runs Luther Acres.
Buried three paragraphs deep into that announcement posted on the Luthercare site and Facebook page late on April 29 is news indicative of the explosive spread of the disease on the Luther Acres campus.
“Luther Acres Healthcare Center in Lititz is currently treating nine residents with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and nine residents with a presumed or suspected case. Two of our residents have recovered from the virus. We have had nine COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19-related deaths in our Healthcare Center.” It continues: “At Luther Acres, we have had a total of 22 Healthcare Center employees test positive for the virus, and nine have returned to work,” the statement reads.
In response to an email requesting to clarify the total number infected, Luthercare spokesperson Amy Kenn raised the count when she replied that “At Luther Acres, 16 residents have tested positive for COVID-19; 9 additional residents are presumed/suspected to be COVID-19 positive.” That means at least
2530 residents have become ill with COVID-19 symptoms, and the disease is still spreading among the vulnerable population. Add to that the 22 employees who have tested positive to date, for a total of 4752 individuals.
UPDATE: The case count was updated Saturday at noon to 52 after publication of this story following receipt of an email from Luthercare spokesperson Amy Kenn, who wrote that she initially provided an incorrect count. She wrote: “In total, we have had 30 confirmed positive or presumed positive cases among residents (this includes the resident in Independent Living) and 22 among our team members.”
Luther Acres coronavirus cases more than doubled in a week, rising by 29, while COVID-19 positive tests in individuals residing in the Lititz zip increased by 22. This, and data from other Lititz long-term care facilities, suggests that many of the infected healthcare workers live outside the 17543 zip code.
Most of those infected are in the Healthcare Center, where an employee who worked on April 7 then reportedly developed COVID-19 symptoms at home after the shift was diagnosed with COVID-19. “Nine of the 16 are in our Healthcare Center, two of the 16 have recovered and five of the 16 have died,” Kenn wrote.
A TIMELINE OF THE OUTBREAK AT LUTHER ACRES
LititzDailyNews.com was first to report that the outbreak likely began in the Healthcare Center on April 7, when an employee in the Healthcare Center’s secured memory care unit reportedly came to work asymptomatic, but developed symptoms of COVID-19 after returning home. Luthercare prohibited all outside visitors to skilled nursing starting on March 13. SEE GRAPH BELOW STORY THAT SHOWS THE EXPLOSION OF COVID-19 AT LUTHER ACRES SINCE APRIL 7. A significant number of staff members have also tested positive for COVID-19, according to the April 29 Luthercare post. It is unknown whether the first employee to test positive in early April has returned to work.
The median length of incubation the virus before becoming ill with COVID-19 is 5 days, according to a study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Anyone who may have been exposed to the virus on April 7 at Luther Acres would likely show symptoms by April 12, and if tested, would obtain results within a day or two under the prioritized system in place at the time.
By April 14, Luther Acres had three known cases: a resident in the Healthcare Center tested positive for COVID-19, as well as two staff members, per the Luthercare update.
Exactly one week later, on April 21, the organization announced the number of COVID-positive cases had jumped to 18 at Luther Acres, a six-fold increase. 15 residents and 3 staff members were known infected.
Now, on April 29, the number of those afflicted with this disease at Luther Acres has more than doubled to at least 47.
Luthercare, the non-profit organization that operates the 106-bed Lititz long-term care facility, operates nursing homes in Lebanon and Columbia, Pa.
LUTHER ACRES MANAGEMENT CHANGING SOME MEDICAL PRACTICES
After multiple staff and residents became ill, Luthercare announced last Friday it was changing some of its medical practices, shifting to “droplet precaution” protocol, and is now treating all residents as if they are ill.
“While caring for our healthcare residents, staff wear full protective equipment, including medical gowns, gloves, face shields and masks,” the April 29 update reads.
The CDC standard Droplet Precaution protocol recommends that patients sharing a room be separated by 3 feet or more and that curtains be drawn between patient beds, a practice the agency says is especially important for patients in multi-bed rooms with infections transmitted by the droplet. Luthercare made no mention in the statement whether it is instituting this important practice.
LARGEST OUTBREAK OF COVID-19 AT A LITITZ LONG-TERM CARE FACILITY
The outbreak at Luther Acres has now surpassed the outbreak at Brethren Village, where four residents have died from among the 22 total staff and residents who were infected. United Zion Retirement Community saw its COVID cases double over the past week, and one resident died. Landis Homes lost one resident, the only individual to test positive on the campus. An employee who answered the phone at Kadima-Lititz on Tuesday claimed that the facility has had no cases.
Pennsylvania has not released the names of facilities with cases of the coronavirus. Almost half of the 1,300 U.S. nursing homes with publicly identified coronavirus cases have recently been cited by inspectors for infection-control lapses, according to an article in The Washington Post.
A HISTORY OF VIOLATIONS AND FINES AT LUTHER ACRES
Luther Acres was fined $127,706 in 2018 for violations including neglect to a resident that resulted in injury when a resident was improperly lifted and suffered a fractured leg, according to an article on ProPublica, the inspection report on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid website, and the site survey inspections of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which also found that the facility failed to ensure sanitation equipment functioned properly in the kitchen.
THE LUTHER ACRES COVID-19 CURVE (STORY CONTINUES BELOW CHART)
A study just published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases suggests that a 3-foot separation may not be sufficient in the case of coronavirus 2, the virus that causes COVID-19. That study references another study that documented the virus was found at a distance of 13 feet from a patient.
LititzDailyNews.com receives its only support from readers like you. Please support continued publication of our local COVID-19 coverage with your non-tax-deductible donation with $1 or more through the PayPal button below.
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.