VDH: 1st person at continuing care facility hospitalized for coronavirus in Virginia

Updated: Mar. 17, 2020 at 12:04 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Department of Health officials announced Tuesday the first person to test positive for COVID-19 while at a continuing care facility across the Commonwealth.

"It was just a matter of time before we saw this in one of our retirement homes, long-term care facilities,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Director of the Richmond and Henrico Department of Health.

At a news conference Tuesday, Avula said the Westminster Canterbury Richmond male resident in his 80′s tested positive for COVID-19 Monday night. He was hospitalized after returning from a trip to Florida; however, Avula said the man didn’t have the typical type of symptoms.

“It brings up an interesting conundrum from a disease transmission standpoint because an elderly population that [often has] a suppressed immune response, we may not always see the high fevers or the cough and congestion that we have come to expect as we’ve been monitoring this disease over the last few months,” he said.

Since the positive test, VDH has been working with residents and staff at Westminster Canterbury Richmond.

“Virginia Department of Health officials are now determining who may have come into contact with the resident and a number of healthcare staff are at home in self-quarantine,” a news release said.

"Thankfully the initial report looks pretty good,” Avula added. “This individual seems to have not had a lot of traffic throughout the facility. At the behest of their children, they were social distancing themselves, which is really good here."

Avula said the man is being treated at VCU Medical Center and said to be doing well.

Roughly 25 staff members were sent home to self-quarantine. The nearly 900 other residents at the facility are also quarantined as this so-called “cluster investigation” continues. The facility will also continue with campus closure to visitors.

“I think we all have a responsibility to stay home if we can,” said Melissa Andrews, CEO of LeadingAge Virginia. “The spread isn’t just from 65-year-old to 65-year-old, it’s the rest of us that are also capable of community spread.”

The resident from the Westminster Canterbury Richmond facility is the second person to test positive for COVID-19 in Henrico County in a matter of two days.

During Tuesday’s news conference by the Governor, VDH officials announced the case. Governor Ralph Northam urged people over the age of 65 to self-quarantine in order to keep them safe.

A Westminster Canterbury Richmond spokesperson added the facility has been monitoring the latest developments and implemented several procedures to prevent the spread of the virus:

  • On March 4, staff began tracking the travel plans of residents, staff and their families in order to monitor those travelling to affected areas.
  • On March 11, as soon as a case was confirmed in greater Richmond, Westminster Canterbury took strides to lock down the campus, closing the campus to visitors and screening everyone who entered campus, including all staff members, with questions and temperature screenings.

"Having a single point of entry, having screenings for everyone and every resident returning from somewhere to be screened for symptoms… those are the kinds of interventions that are really going to limit the spread of disease," Avula said.

“As soon as COVID-19 was diagnosed for the hospitalized resident, Westminster Canterbury took additional steps, including requiring all residents to remain in their apartments,” the news release said. “All needs of residents will be attended to by staff.”

Meanwhile, administrators for the facility are working to inform residents as quickly as possible about changes.

“The specifics of meal delivery, dog walking, and mail delivery and newspaper delivery because that’s really where the questions are now,” said John Burns, CEO of Westminster Canterbury Richmond. “They understand the quarantine component, but now it’s how to we get back to living. We’re not there yet, but hopefully today.”

Westminster Canterbury Richmond is a continuing care retirement and life plan community. The facility was founded in 1971 by the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches and opened in 1975.

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