An assisted living facility on the north edge of Blair now sits empty — all of its residents transferred elsewhere — less than a week after the first resident tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Three Rivers Public Health Department has linked 19 cases of COVID-19 to an outbreak at Carter Place, 1028 Joann Drive. Ten of those were announced Monday after all residents and staff members were tested. Two are Douglas County residents.
Terra Uhing, executive director of Three Rivers Public Health Department, gave a timeline of the outbreak at Carter Place during a Tuesday press conference at the Blair City Council Chamber.
The first case, a woman in her 90s, tested positive March 23.
As state and local health officials began their investigation March 24, a second case was confirmed. A day later, a resident was reported to be showing symptoms of the illness and a health care worker tested positive.
By March 28, three more residents and two health care workers tested positive.
“That's when we had to move fairly quick,” Uhing said.
Officials made the decision to test all residents and staff members and remove the 17 remaining residents from the facility Sunday. The four COVID-19 positive patients were moved late Saturday night by ambulance.
“As we assessed the situation, our goal was to contain that spread once it was evident that it was continuing to spread,” Uhing said.
Moving the residents will mitigate the spread of the illness, Uhing said.
“Leaving them in that facility, we would have continued and by next week all of them probably would have been positive,” she said.
The residents were taken to neighboring health care facilities and hospitals. Five are hospitalized. Citing health care protection laws, Uhing said she could not name the facilities to which the residents were taken.
“But I can assure you that the entities that have accepted these residents are fully prepared to provide the support and take appropriate actions into respect for caring for these residents,” Uhing said. “They are in a very good place.”
A spokesperson for Enlivant, the company that owns Carter Place, said the residents and staff are their top priority.
“While this is a rapidly evolving situation, our priority has been — and remains — ensuring the safety and health of our residents and staff,” a statement said. “We continue to partner closely with the health department and appreciate their counsel and expertise. Our team continues to follow their guidance, learn from best practices and is in the process of working with a third-party organization to deep clean and prepare Carter Place for the future.”
Carter Place staff who tested negative have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days due to the outbreak. Enlivant has created options to support our employees financially during this time, including offering additional paid leave.
The health department will monitor those staff members for symptoms.
“We know that they have a test right now that is negative, but that doesn't mean that possibly here in the next couple of days they wouldn't become symptomatic,” Uhing said.
Three Rivers Public Health Department will not list possible exposure locations from the six staff members who tested positive.
“We have a good idea of where they have been, but at this point there is so much community transmission. When we list names of businesses where staff members have been, that seems to give a false sense of security,” Uhing said. “It is all over. It is everywhere we probably go. Going forward, we won't be listing where these individuals have gone because it's irrelevant at this point in time. It is evident and it's widespread in the communities we serve.”
Health officials have linked the outbreak at Carter Place to a health care worker who attended a large event outside of Washington County. Uhing previously said another confirmed case was linked to the same event. However, she declined to name the event.
“We are not able to 150 percent verify it because this person was not symptomatic when she went to this event. She was feeling fine,” Uhing said. “We believe she would have picked that up at that event.”
With all residents out of Carter Place, the facility will be deep cleaned and disinfected. Uhing said the plan is to eventually move all negative patients back to facility. However, there is no timeline for that move.
Uhing said it is important for Washington County residents to understand the seriousness of the situation.
“This is here in all of the communities and I don't even believe we have even started to see what the surge might look like,” she said.
“This is serious and it is scary and we've got to have people to take this seriously and stay home,” she added.
Timeline of COVID-19 outbreak at Carter Place
March 23 — Three Rivers Public Health Department received the first lab confirmed report of a resident at Carter Place.
March 24 — Three Rivers completed an investigation with its state and local team and received second lab confirmed report of a resident.
March 25 — A resident was reported being symptomatic; a health care worker tested positive; two additional health care workers are tested.
March 26 — No reports of symptomatic residents, all residents doing well.
March 27 — Health officials ask Carter Place administration for temperature logs, four residents had symptoms and are tested; two additional healthcare workers test positive
March 28 — Three of the four residents tested were positive for COVID-19
March 29 — No reports of symptomatic patients; tested 16 residents and 17 staff members; all 17 residents transferred to other facilities
March 30 — 10 additional people related to Carter Place test positive