13 deaths at Charlottesville long-term care facility tied to COVID-19

13 deaths at Charlottesville long-term care facility tied to COVID-19
Cedars Healthcare Center in Charlottesville (FILE) (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Thirteen residents at the Cedars Healthcare Center (CHC) in Charlottesville have so far died in connection with the coronavirus. Additionally, 16 others have been hospitalized.

A CommuniCare spokesperson confirmed to NBC29 on Friday, July 24, that there are dozens of COVID-19 cases among staff and residents at CDC, but did not provide an exact number of fatalities from the virus. The facility had a total of 67 cases on Friday, 26 of which were staff members. Now, the case total stands at 85.

“We treat these fatalities as very tragic events. Our residents are not statistics to us: They are names, faces, habits, they’re people we interact with on a daily basis, and we grieve their loss,” spokesperson Fred Stratmann said.

The outbreak was first reported on July 10. Stratmann says all of the fatalities and hospitalizations are residents of the Cedars Healthcare Center.

“We certainly want the community to know that we are re-doubling our efforts to increase our treatment protocols, to make sure we’re actively treating and fighting back against COVID in all the residents that have it,” Stratmann said.

The Virginia Department of Health has said outbreaks at nursing homes are dangerous because of the age and underlying health conditions of many of the residents. Back in April, Thomas Jefferson Health District Senior Policy Analyst Ryan McKay said they were focusing on this vulnerable population.

“That’s a population that would potentially overwhelm our healthcare system if large numbers had to go to the ED [emergency department] or the ICU [intensive care unit] for oxygen intubation, ventilators, and things like that,” McKay said.

“COVID-19 in long term care facilities is particularly serious because risk increases with age,” Ta’Kindra Westbrook, TJHD’s acting district epidemiologist, wrote in an email. “People in this population may have other underlying health issues that can further complicate things. They are also at higher risk of getting and spreading the virus, because of the social and congregant nature of the facility” such as social gatherings and communal dining.

The data supports these concerns. As of Tuesday, 1.8 percent of positive COVID-19 cases in the health district has led to death. Of the 85 cases at Cedars, 15 percent have passed away.

The 13 deaths make this outbreak the deadliest for a long-term health facility in this part of central Virginia. This news comes on the same day Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said problems in nursing homes across the Commonwealth are getting better.

“A few weeks ago nursing homes accounted for about a third of Virginia’s cases, but today just about 1% of individuals that are tested are positive there,” Northam said.

According to the Virginia Long-Term Care Task Force, CHC reported a total of 85 cases Tuesday, July 28. VDH has not posted or confirmed the deaths. The task force labels this as an outbreak in progress at Cedars Healthcare Center.

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story.

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