Southern Utah battles 11 COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities

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ST. GEORGE, UTAH (ABC4 NEWS) — The Southwest Utah Public Health Department says it’s “very concerned” about COVID-19 outbreaks discovered at a record-breaking 11 long-term care facilities in southwestern Utah, including at the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins.

To clarify, there has only been one COVID-19 positive resident at the Southern Utah Veterans Home as of Tuesday, according to officials at the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs. The resident tested positive just before Thanksgiving and was transferred to another skilled nursing facility to receive care on its COVID-19 unit.

Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs spokesperson Kelsey Price says there are no confirmed COVID-19 positive residents being cared for at the Southern Utah Veterans Home at this time.

“Avalon Health Care is limiting access to the building and carefully screening all people entering the facility in accordance with CDC, CMS, and state guidelines,” Price wrote in an email to ABC4 News. “At this time, only essential visitors or essential vendors are allowed to enter the building on a case-by-case basis.”

The policy of the Utah Department of Health is to consider just one case in a resident as an outbreak. The facility stays on the coronavirus.utah.gov website list as having fewer than five cases for 14 days to ensure no other staff or residents become ill. After 14 days, the facility will be removed from the list if no other patients or employees get sick.

Physician partners and the State and County health departments are working closely with the 10 other long-term care facilities in Washington and Iron Counties with outbreaks, according to state officials:

  • Red Cliffs Health and Rehab; 5 or more COVID-19 cases.
  • Beehive Homes of Cedar City #3; 5 or more COVID-19 cases.
  • Brookdale Cedar City; 5 or more COVID-19 cases.
  • Southern Utah Veterans Home; Less than 5 COVID-19 cases.
  • Ridgeview Gardens of St. George; Less than 5 COVID-19 cases.
  • The Retreat at Sunriver St. George; Less than 5 COVID-19 cases.
  • Coral Desert Rehabilitation and Care; Less than 5 COVID-19 cases.
  • Sterling Court; Less than 5 COVID-19 cases.
  • Spring Gardens of St. George; Less than 5 COVID-19 cases.
  • Beehive Homes of Washington County #7; Less than 5 COVID-19 cases.
  • Stonehenge of Cedar City; Less than 5 COVID-19 cases.

“It’s very concerning for us,” David Heaton, the public information officer for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, said. “This is the most outbreaks that we’ve had in care centers yet during the pandemic, with eight in Washington County and three in Iron County.”

Heaton advises those who have any contact with workers at these facilities to take extra precautions during this time, including a significant portion of the community who who may be asymptomatic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently estimates that up to 40% of current infections are asymptomatic.

“That’s why we sometimes might have a false sense of security because we feel great and believe that we don’t need to be careful,” Heaton said. “That’s probably why some of these [COVID-19 cases] might be slipping through the cracks.”

“It’s smart to assume that you are infected even if you’re feeling fine,” added Heaton.

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