As a coronavirus outbreak continued Tuesday at a long-term care facility in Winder, the administrator there said the facility has requested help with mass testing of residents and emergency staffing from the state.
But when more than 100 tests arrived at the facility Tuesday afternoon, they were diverted to a “higher-priority” site.
In a Facebook post Tuesday, officials at Winder Health Care and Rehabilitation on East May Street reported that four more employees had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases at the facility to 23 — 21 employees and two residents.
The number of coronavirus cases at the facility is likely higher as officials have said in numerous Facebook posts that the facility has a shortage of testing available for residents. Administrator Katy Callaway said Tuesday that seven of the facility’s 121 residents had been tested as of Tuesday afternoon, and five test results were still pending.
The facility requested through the Barrow County Emergency Management Agency that the state provide a Georgia National Guard unit to test all of the residents as well as more staffing, Callaway said. Under the state’s latest testing criteria, all of the facility’s residents and employees are eligible to be tested, whether they are symptomatic or not, though there is still some prioritization.
Callaway said a unit arrived at the facility Tuesday afternoon with 112 tests but was diverted to a jail.
The Barrow News-Journal has reached out to state officials to determine the location of the jail, reasons for the prioritization and a timeline on when the tests might arrive again.
Barrow County sheriff Jud Smith said Tuesday the county detention center was not the jail the tests were being sent to.
Callaway said she was hoping the Guard unit would be back later this week with tests but could not say for sure. She said the facility expects seven emergency staffers sent by the state to be in place this week.
The employees at the facility who tested positive for COVID-19 are self-isolating at home. The two residents who tested positive were hospitalized, but their exact condition was not known. Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), medical care providers and facilities refrain from giving out details on patients to the public.
The number of the cases at the facility has ballooned since Friday, when officials reported two employees and one resident had tested positive at the facility. The total number of cases increased to four on Saturday and then jumped to 19 on Sunday before going up again Tuesday to 23.
Callaway said the state has been sending a weekly shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) but that the facility could use more in able to more quickly recycle it for continued use.
“We are making every effort to stop the spread of this virus within our facility,” officials said in the Tuesday Facebook post. “We continue to communicate with local and state health officials to confirm that we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure resident and staff safety.”
“Please, feel free to call us if you have any questions. We do ask that you condense your calls so that multiple members of the same family are not calling multiple times each day.
“We are so thankful for our community, families and employees as they continue to support us as we fight this virus. We ask for your continued prayers for the residents, staff and family members.”
As of the latest report by the Georgia Department of Community Health on Tuesday, Winder Health Care and Rehab was the only long-term care facility in Barrow County listed with an outbreak.
More than 200 long-term care facilities around Georgia have experienced outbreaks, according to the latest DCH report. As of Tuesday, there were 3,106 confirmed cases among long-term care facility residents and 1,483 among employees statewide, and 450 resident deaths had been confirmed.
Winder Health and Rehab officials are asking people who are interested in training to become a certified nursing assistant and who want to provide temporary nursing aid at the facility to contact the facility.
Legislation passed in response to the pandemic allows people to train and become a CNA at a facility. Callaway said people can take an eight-hour class online, take a test and, once they get temporary certification, apply for an opening at the facility. Later, they’ll be eligible to take an exam to become a full-time assistant.
Those interested in the process are asked to call 770-867-2108, ext. 114, or email email@example.com.