Adult care facilities Up North report COVID cases

Apr 21, 2020

Credit Interlochen Public Radio

This story was updated April 22 at 11:55 a.m. with more information from District Health Department #10.

Health officials confirmed coronavirus cases in what the state calls “congregate care facilities” in Otsego and Crawford counties this week. The Health Department of Northwest Michigan says a cluster of nearly 20 positive cases were found at an undisclosed care facility in Otsego County over the weekend.

There are also five residents and five staff members at Munson’s Crawford Continuing Care Center who tesed positive and seven residents and 10 staff members testing positive at the Grayling Nursing & Rehabilitation Community, says District Health Department #10. Two residents at these facilities have died since contracting the disease.

The district health department says of the 30 confirmed cases in Crawford County, 20 are linked to one of the care facilities. Seven of the facilities' employees who contracted the disease live outside the county.

Grayling Nursing & Rehabilitation Community Director of Operations, Anthony Abela, said in a news release that staff sick with COVID-19 are on leave while they recover.

“Our nursing team has been working hard to gain the upper hand to fight COVID-19. Grayling Nursing and Rehabilitation will continue to rely on State and Federal guidelines, community assistance in prevention, and the high quality of care that Crawford County has come to know and appreciate in their community," Abela said the release.

Dianne Michalek, a Munson Healthcare spokesperson, said in the release, that the hospital system is monitoring the situation at the Crawford Continuing Care Center closely.

“Residents who have tested positive are being isolated and cared for. On March 11 we began prohibiting all visitors and have been screening all employees who enter the facility. We understand that our residents are those at highest risk and we continue to follow safety precautions recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization to further control the spread of this virus," Michalek said in the release.

On April 15, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order requiring care facilities to report COVID cases to local health departments.

“At Michigan’s long term care facilities, residents and employees live and work in very confined areas, and the lack of personal protection equipment makes it difficult to engage in precautionary measures recommended by the CDC,” Whitmer said in an address to the state.

Adult care facilities now have to file daily reports with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The state publicly lists the number of facilities experiencing outbreaks by county. The Northwest Michigan Health Department isn’t publicly providing the names of nearby facilities with coronavirus cases.

“All of the settings that we’re working with … are doing a really good job,” Lisa Peacock with the health department said. “We’re helping them to do everything they can to protect both their staff and their residents.”

In a briefing to the media Tuesday, Peacock did not provide the name of the facility in Otsego County that has nearly 20 cases.

Otsego County is one of the hardest hit areas in northern Michigan, with 77 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and six related deaths as of Wednesday afternoon according to the state. In a press release, the health department said quicker testing will hopefully prevent the disease from spreading.

“Our goal is to ensure that these high-risk settings have what they need to adequately prevent and mitigate any potential clusters of COVID-19. We want to reassure community members that long-term care facilities, and other congregate living settings, are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines,” the release reads.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan says it's forming a group to specifically help adult-care facilities fight the spread of the virus. DHD #10 says it has developed specific toolkits for adult care facilities that provide guidance on mitigating the risk and spread of COVID-19.