I-TEAM: Despite COVID-19 spike in two-state, some good news out of nursing homes

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 2:36 PM EDT
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Friday, June 12, 2020

News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- As the two-state pushes forward with re-opening, families are still prohibited from visiting their loved ones in nursing homes under the new executive order in Georgia.

Nearly half of the COVID deaths in the state have come from long term care facilities.

But we did find hopeful news coming out of nursing homes.

Hopeful, but cautious is the best way to describe it. Nursing home patients have the highest death rate for COVID 19, but new data shows more patients are recovering than dying in Georgia.

The outbreak at Windermere Health and Rehabilitation Center seemingly happened overnight. Seventy-six patients tested positive for COVID-19. Eleven died of the virus.

“It was certainly a scary time," Nan Impink, Windermere's chief customer experience officer, said.

"We were only 3-4 weeks into the pandemic and still trying to understand it and it was frightening to staff, but they rallied and continued to be diligent about their practices around infection control and prevention," Impink said.

Two months after the outbreak, it appears the diligence has paid off.

“I think the staff there really took the guidance tools that were given," Impink said.

New data released from the Department of Community Health shows 56 of the 76 residents at Windermere positive for the virus have recovered.

“Many of the patients who tested positive were in fact asymptomatic and never showed signs or symptoms of the virus," Impink said.

We analyzed data across Georgia and found of the 6,200 nursing home patients positive for COVID, more than half of them have now recovered. This makes the recovery rate nearly three times the death rate for residents of long term care facilities.

We also crunched local data. Nearly 400 patients tested positive for the virus in 14 local facilities. More than 45 percent of them have now recovered.

Patients are even recovering in Hancock County, which has the highest death rate per capita in Georgia. Forty patients have recovered at Providence of Sparta Health and Rehab. As of today, only three patients remain in isolation.

The administrator emailed us:

“We are hopeful that we will conquer this pandemic," the email said. "We remain cautious and vigilant in the fight against the coronavirus and keeping your loved ones safe - which is our number one priority. We are on the mend!”

"We are not letting our guard down," Impink said. "We don’t know what this virus will do in the future, so we are going to continue with the practices that have made us successful in the last several months.”

“We are hopeful maybe the worst of this is behind us at Windermere but again cautiously hopeful," Impink said.

It's a much-needed glimmer of hope for families with loved ones in nursing homes.

Visitation is still restricted in nursing homes in both Georgia and South Carolina and will most likely not be lifted until the total number of cases begin to go down.

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