(LITITZ, Pa.-LititzDailyNews.com) – Two residents died last week amid an outbreak of COVID-19 at Luther Acres in Lititz which has sickened at least 15 residents and three employees at the long-term care facility.
The outbreak likely began 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. Outbreaks at nursing homes in several states have been traced to health care workers, who frequently work at more than one facility. Luthercare restricted all visitors to skilled nursing on March 13.
“The employee was screened before and at the completion of shift on April 7th and had no symptoms at that time,” according to an announcement made on April 10 by Luthercare. Screenings consisted of the employee completing a questionnaire and a temperature check.
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.
Late on Friday, the passing of the two Luther Acres residents was announced. The announcement from Luthercare, the non-profit organization that operates the 106-bed Lititz long-term care facility as well as facilities in Lebanon and Columbia, Pa., was posted to social media at 6:41 p.m.
“We are deeply saddened to announce that we lost two residents this week from COVID-19-related complications,” reads a statement posted to the Luthercare website and Luthercare Facebook page. Nothing about the deaths appears on the Luther Acres Facebook page, which has not been updated about COVID-19 since March 16.
Luthercare also announced on Friday that three Luther Acres employees who recovered from the virus returned to work over the past week. In the same statement, Luthercare announced it was changing some of its medical practices.
“In consultation with our medical director, the decision was made today that all residents – rather than only the positive or presumed positive cases – will be treated using Droplet Precautions,” the statement said, noting it was “the safest approach to manage the spread among residents and team members.” No detail was provided as to what those precautions will entail. This is typically achieved through use of masks, respirators, and physical separation of patients.
Other long-term care facilities in Lititz have disclosed outbreaks of COVID-19 as well, including Brethren Village, where four residents have died, Landis Homes, which lost one resident, and United Zion Retirement Community, who as of Friday has three employees that just tested positive for the disease. Kadima Lititz has not yet responded to multiple requests for information via phone, email, and social media.
Pennsylvania has not released the names of facilities with cases of the virus. Almost half of the 1,300 U.S. nursing homes with publicly identified coronavirus cases has a recently been cited by inspectors for infection-control lapses, according to an article in The Washington Post.
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.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW CHART
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.
However, 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.
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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.