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Coronavirus cases level off at Middletown Home, Frey Village; 1 death reported over weekend


By Laura Hayes

and Dan Miller

Middletown Home has gone three weeks without any new cases of its nursing home residents testing positive for the coronavirus.

No additional residents of the Home’s nursing home component have tested positive for the virus in the past 20 days, Home CEO Louis Vogel III told the Press & Journal on Monday.

Frey Village is also reporting no additional cases in the last week as of Monday evening, although staff are reporting one death over the weekend for a total of 10.

The Home had gone from mid-March until just after the Memorial Day weekend without any resident or Home staff member testing positive for the virus.

The first two positive cases of residents became known right after Memorial Day weekend. By early June the number of positive cases among all Home residents and staff had shot up to 35, and five residents had died where COVID-19 had been identified as a “contributing factor” in their deaths, according to Vogel.

The sharp increase coincided with the Home beginning to follow guidelines for across the board “universal” testing that had been put out by the Department of Health.

Gov. Tom Wolf had announced May 12 that every resident and employee of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities would be tested each week. On June 8, Wolf issued a universal testing order requiring all nursing homes complete initial baseline testing no later than July 24.

Before starting to follow the universal testing guidelines, Middletown Home had only been testing residents who showed symptoms of the virus, and then only on the advice of the resident’s physician.

Vogel had characterized the spike in positive test results starting around the Memorial Day weekend as “an outbreak” of the coronavirus at the Home.

As of Monday, Vogel said the Home has two nursing home residents still positive for COVID-19. The rest have all been “cleared” of the virus, he said. Otherwise, the Home has one resident in its personal care wing and one resident in independent living who have tested positive, and are sheltering in-place in their apartments.

All Home residents who have tested negative for the virus continue to be re-tested every week.

To date, 11 Home residents have died in cases in which COVID-19 has been identified as a contributing factor, according to Vogel.

Among staff who work at the Home, seven are currently positive for the coronavirus. All staff who previously tested positive have been cleared and have returned to work following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All staff who have tested negative for the virus are also being retested weekly, Vogel said.

At Frey Village, which is run by Diakon Senior Services, there are 33 active cases of COVID-19 among residents, according to Bill Swanger, senior vice president for corporate communications and public relations.

“However many of those residents are asymptomatic and two are now considered recovered, based on CDC guidelines. We should have many more residents shortly who will be considered recovered based on the same guidelines,” Swanger said.

According to Diakon’s website, cases are in Frey’s skilled nursing facility and memory care center.

One week ago, Diakon reported 35 active COVID-19 cases in residents. The week prior, the total was 26, and the week before it was 2.

A total of 19 staff members have tested positive for the virus, and 10 staff members are self-quarantining and not at Frey.

Swanger said all but one of the recovered staff members have returned back to work.

A week ago, Frey reported 16 active cases in staff members.

Reopening plans

On Saturday, the state Department of Health and the state Department of Human Services released prerequisites for long-term care facilities to meet before starting to reopen for visitors.

The facilities, which have to be in either the green or yellow phase, must develop and post a plan specifying how reopening requirements will be met; administer and complete baseline COVID-19 testing; develop visitation plans; develop plans to isolate or cohort residents who test positive; create screening protocols for staff, residents and anyone entering; and have adequate staffing and PPE.

Once these are met, the care facility can enter a three-step reopening process: step one, no new resident or staff cases or spread within the facility for 14 days; step two, maintain no new cases or spread for another 14 days; and step three, operate as outlined for the rest of Gov. Tom Wolf’s disaster declaration as long as there are no new cases.

In a press release, Diakon said it is working to ensure that its plans for a phased reopening meet state guidelines and their commitment to everyone’s wellbeing.

“While we understand family members are looking forward to seeing loved ones in our nursing care and personal care centers, our ultimate responsibility is to the health of those residents and our staff members,” Diakon said.

As part of its plans to begin reopening, the Home has scheduled appointments with all of its families to begin visiting this week.

Family members will have to practice social distancing and wear face masks during these visits, which are to be held in one of the Home’s outside pavilions.

The Home has also invited family members to come at 6 p.m. July 2 for a meeting in the outside pavilion “to share questions and concerns” and to discuss “safely” reconnecting with the Home and its residents, Vogel said.

Social distancing will be practiced, and those attending will be required to wear face masks.

The Home will resume its monthly in-person Family Council Meetings in July, Vogel said.