A Blair assisted living facility is on lockdown after two residents and a healthcare worker tested positive for COVID-19 this week. This is the first coronavirus outbreak at a nursing facility within the state of Nebraska, according to Terra Uhing, executive director of Three Rivers Public Health Department.
Uhing said the confirmed cases — a woman in her 90s and a man in his 70s — were identified Monday and Tuesday, respectively. They are residents of Carter Place, a 30-bed facility with 23 residents, located at 1028 Joann Drive.
A third resident and a second healthcare worker are also symptomatic, but have not been confirmed. Uhing said it is likely they won't be tested, but be considered probable cases due to the known outbreak at the facility.
Washington County has five confirmed cases of COVID-19. The first two positive cases were travel related.
“We have a very dire situation here in Washington County with the assisted living facility,” Uhing said Thursday during a press conference with city and county officials at the Blair City Council Chambers.
Uhing said the man in his 70s was hospitalized and was improving. She expected he could be discharged as soon as Thursday.
Carter Place has been “aggressively responding” to the situation and are working with state and local health officials to ensure the safety and care of its residents, Uhing said.
All communal activities at the facility have ceased and residents are quarantined in their separate rooms. Residents' temperatures are checked three times a day, every eight hours. Facility staff are also being screened before they are allowed inside.
Additionally, cleaning and disinfecting is taking place throughout the facility. Meals are being served to residents in their rooms.
Family members can visit with residents via their room windows.
Local and state health officials investigating the outbreak have pinpointed the entry point of the illness to the facility through a healthcare worker. Uhing said the individual caught COVID-19 through community transmission at an event that was not within Washington County. Uhing declined to identify that event. However, she did say there was already another case potentially tied to that event.
Blair city officials confirmed Blair Rescue transported the first Carter Place patient to Memorial Community Hospital and Health System on Saturday.
Washington County Emergency Manager Dan Douglas said four EMTs responded to the call. The patient, at the time, did not show any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. Rescue personnel were not wearing full personal protection equipment and have since been placed in self-quarantine.
Douglas said they are checked twice a day for any symptoms. However, none have shown any signs of the illness, he said.
“If they were to develop any symptoms, that is then when it would trigger us to the next step where we would potentially do some testing or go ahead and possibly consider them as a probable case of COVID-19,” Uhing said.
Blair City Administrator Rod Storm told the Enterprise the city is working to help those first responders who are in quarantine.
“The city will do everything within our powers to work with the first responders, the department and their employers to see that they are taken care of during the time of quarantine that is the result of their volunteering to serve the citizens of our community,” he said.
The ambulance that was used on the call, Douglas said, has been decontaminated.
“There was no risk of it transferring to anybody else,” Douglas said.
Douglas has strongly suggested that all EMS personnel treat every call a potential coronavirus case until they can determine that it is not.
Washington County Dispatch will screen 911 callers with questions, including if they have symptoms or have traveled, to try to identify any coronavirus-related calls.
“So EMS knows right away how to approach the situation,” Douglas said.
Uhing reminded residents that if they are feeling sick, they need to stay home and to practice social distancing.
“This is not because we don't want people to be able to do what they need to do,” she said. “This is because we are really trying to save lives and ensure that our vulnerable populations are as healthy as they possibly can.”