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I-TEAM: 14 asymptomatic employees called back to work at Windermere Health and Rehab

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 4:51 PM EDT
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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Gyms, salons, and restaurants will reopen in a matter of days in Georgia. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases continue to surge in our local nursing homes, leaving some to take desperate measures to continue to give patient care.

Positive cases inside these facilities shot up nearly 20 percent in just three days. The biggest increase is the number of workers testing positive.

In order to combat staffing shortages, the CDC is now allowing healthcare workers, positive for COVID-19, to work at facilities where there is a staffing shortage.

We confirmed asymptomatic employees are back to work at Windermere Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Barbara Roye’s family did not get to say goodbye.

“For her to be alone in her final hours is what kills me,” Roye’s grandaughter, Amber Peloquin, said.

Jeannie Jackson's son watched her breathe her last breath through a video feed.

“I couldn’t even give my mom one last kiss -- none of that -- and it’s sad,” Melvin Jackson, her son, said.

Both were residents at Windermere. Five patients have died of COVID-19 there. Seventy-five patients and 29 workers are positive for COVID-19 at the facility.

The virus is now in nearly a dozen of our local long-term health care facilities and personal care homes, and the I-Team found the spread is not slowing down.

We analyzed recent nursing home data from the Department of Community Health.

From April 17 to April 20, in just three days, the number of patients positive for the virus locally rose 17 percent. The number of workers with COVID-19 shot up more than 21 percent. Melissa Oden says COVID-19 hit one of her three facilities for the first time last week. A part-time employee tested positive at Pepper Hill Rehab and Nursing.

“Some of the staff, of course, are going to get nervous, so they’re going to call out and say they can’t come in,” Oden said.

Right now, Oden only has one part-time employee out. Windermere is down nearly 30 workers because of the virus. The I-Team obtained an internal text between a Windermere nursing supervisor and staff. The April 8 message shows a dire staffing situation at the facility.

The nursing supervisor writes “workers, we have the whole crew out of work and literally trying to get back to take care of our residents and can’t because they are either sick or waiting results. Running with a skeletal crew who have been there 17 hours and waiting for relief and you just don’t show up? Not to call or show up is flat out disgusting. You are disgusting.”

Windermere tells the I-\Team 14 of the 31 employees positive for COVID-19 are either back at work or will be back at work this week. A spokesperson with the facility says they are following CDC guidelines for working asymptomatic employees.

Just last week the CDC announced employees with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 can work “when there are no longer enough staff to provide safe patient care.” The CDC states this is a “‘last resort’ once other strategies have been exhausted.”

Oden says, meanwhile, says it’s not the time to get things back to normal for the country.

“Again it only takes one to get into your facility and then you have Windermere on your hands,” Oden said.

A spokesperson for Windermere says the National Guard has not been able to provide the facility with healthcare workers. Again, more than 30 of Windermere's workers have the virus.

1.Most Recent COVID-19 Cases in Georgia Nursing Homes

2. Statement to the I-Team from Windermere Health and Rehab

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