COVID-19 outbreak at Heritage Park Healthcare and Rehabilitative Services

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The Weber-Morgan Health Department and the Utah Department of Health are dealing with an outbreak at a health care facility in Roy City.

The health department confirms with ABC4 News 23 COVID-19 associated cases among both employees and patients at Heritage Park Healthcare and Rehabilitative Services.

“If he tests positive, I know the outcome. He is going to have to stay there and we probably won’t see him again. I know that,” said Denise Thieflfoldt.

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Thielfoldt’s relative recently moved into the facility for long-term treatment. It was a move her family was very concerned about because of COVID-19, and they were looking for another way to take care of him at home.

RELATED: Family loses mother to COVID-19 outbreak at Heritage Park health care facility

“I thought I had time to work with caseworkers and Medicaid. And, get everything set up, and it turns out I didn’t,” she said.

She received a voicemail left by an employee last Tuesday saying, “We are canceling that appointment because there is a positive COVID in the building and we have to get everyone tested.”

“You hear these horror stories about these homes and how it just spreads like wildfire,” Thieflfoldt said.

Her next move was to follow their doctor’s advice.

“You have to get him out now. If he tests negative, you bring him home now. There is no thinking about it, just get him out,” she said. “From what I was told by physicians it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ for him because he is in that high-risk category. It really is a ticking time bomb and it would be ‘when.'”

“An outbreak to us is two cases in a facility,” said Utah Department of Health’s Dr. Allyn Nakashima who specializes in healthcare-associated infections and is looking into the outbreak.

“In a facility like this, in the locked ward where there is memory care patients if that is where the transmission starts it’s pretty hard to control,” said Dr. Nakashima. “What we have to do is see if we can get this to the point where there is no more infections in this remaining group of patients.”

The doctor says the state was notified an employee tested positive for COVID-19 last Monday and testing began on Tuesday.

Dr. Nakashima added, “This facility, for example, has had so many healthcare workers that have become infected because of this event that they are short of staff, I know.”

Heritage Park Healthcare and Rehabilitative Services Administrator Jeff Fletcher tells ABC4 News Investigator Jason Nguyen in an email:

“We can confirm that we do have a limited number of residents and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19. Each of these results have been reported to the Weber-Morgan Health Department and the Utah Department of Health, as is required. We have also communicated these results to facility residents and their families, and continue to keep them updated.”

Fletcher goes on to state, “…please know that we would never permit an employee whom we knew was COVID-19 positive to work in the facility with residents who were not positive for the virus.”

Adding, “We carefully assess and screen our employees every day and every shift before they are allowed into the building; any individual who exhibits even a single symptom consistent with the virus (or any other illness, really) will not be permitted to work.”

Heritage Park Healthcare and Rehabilitative Services staff are working with the Weber-Morgan Health Department and the Utah Department of Health to mitigate the outbreak.

Fletcher states:

We remain actively engaged in COVID-19 specific infection prevention, control and surveillance, and continue our efforts and interventions designed to minimize the exposure to or impact from the novel coronavirus. Examples of these interventions include:
· Frequent handwashing
· Frequent use of hand sanitizer
· All staff are wearing masks from the time of entry into the Facility through the time they depart at the end of their shift
· Staff are using full personal protective equipment when caring for known or suspected COVID-19 positive residents
· As indicated above, staff and essential medical professionals are assessed and screened prior to entering the Facility; if they present with any sign or symptom of illness, they will be sent home
· Residents with presumed positive or confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnoses, should we subsequently have any such residents in the Facility, would be cohorted and separated from those residents who are not presumed or confirmed COVID-19 positive
· Group activities and communal dining remains suspended at this time
· Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing is occurring throughout the Facility
· Our clinical team has implemented enhanced infection surveillance protocol and is monitoring our residents frequently for potential changes in condition

Roughly a dozen patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were moved to another facility. According to the state, Heritage Park Healthcare and Rehabilitative Services are closed down to new patients until there are no more COVID-19 cases.

“We tested them [Monday] morning and it takes about 12 hours or so for the test to be processed so probably later this evening we are going to get the test results back,” said Dr. Nakashima. “Depending on what that shows, we will decide if this is going to have to be turned into a COVID-Only facility or we can still transfer any positives out. Maybe we got them all. Hopefully, we got them all.”

Thielfoldt said she got her family member out of the facility with a negative COVID-19 result and the family member stayed in self-isolation until he was tested for COVID-19 again.

“So we went Saturday and Sunday I got both of our results in, we are both negative. Which is wonderful news,” Thielfoldt said. “As soon as we found out we were negative, we took him outside and gave him a haircut. It was a homemade haircut, it was great. He saw the sun for the first time.”

They’re not out of the woods yet, the family is going back for another COVID-19 test this week and possibly another in the future.

For those who have family members in a health care facility, the state is working on a way to reunite families.

“We are trying to hit a balance and I think we will see that in the next couple weeks where we can recommend somethings that families, family members could do to have a visit once and a while, like maybe schedule a once a week visit and then have them dress up in the PPE at the front desk and bring them in for a short visit,” said Dr. Nakashima.

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