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Major coronavirus outbreaks occur in Orange County long-term care facilities

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PruittHealth - Carolina Point is one of the long-term care facilities in Orange County that has been affected by COVID-19. It has seen 60 cases of COVID-19.

Two long-term care facilities in Orange County are dealing with significant outbreaks of COVID-19 among their resident population.

The facilities are PruittHealth - Carolina Point, which has seen at least 86 confirmed cases, and Signature HealthCARE of Chapel Hill, which has seen at least 31 confirmed cases. 

One patient — an individual over 70 under hospice care — at PruittHealth-Carolina Point was reported dead last Friday. 

As of April 8, there have been 21 outbreaks in congregant living settings across North Carolina. Long-term care facilities account for 18 of these outbreak sites in the state.

According to a release from Orange County, a strike team was formed comprising members from Orange County Health Department, Orange County EMS, UNC Hospitals and Duke Hospitals will focus on virus prevention and response at the two Orange County facilities. 

The teams tested all staff and residents, even if they weren’t showing symptoms, so they know who carries COVID-19. 

“We are deeply concerned for the staff and residents and their families who are affected by this outbreak,” Orange County Health Director Quintana Stewart said in a statement in the press release. “The best thing we can all do to help them is to remain diligent and practice social distancing.”

The county government has released extensive guidelines for long-term care facilities to follow during the outbreak, which include daily health screenings of staff, the closing of communal areas, barring non-essential personnel from the premises and immediately isolating any residents and staff who test positive for the virus. 

Local legislators are beginning to comment on the rapid spread of the disease in long-term care facilities. Orange County legislators N.C. Sen. Valerie Foushee, N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer  and N.C. Rep. Verla Insko released a joint statement on these developments on April 8.

The lawmakers said they extended their deepest sympathies and condolences to the individuals affected by the outbreak and their families. They also said they have full trust in and appreciation for the public health professionals working across the county to provide care and protection to the community.

In the statement, the lawmakers said actions that can be taken at the individual level are important to ensure the safety and general welfare of the county as a whole. They said these actions include following public health and safety guidelines from the state government and local officials. 

“It is incumbent on everyone in Orange County and across North Carolina to be diligent in following Governor Cooper and Secretary Cohen’s guidelines of staying at home, social distancing and proper hygiene practices,” the lawmakers said in the statement. “We all play a vital role in slowing the spread of this disease.”

The newest of those guidelines from the state government came on April 9, when Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order that included risk mitigation measures for long-term care facilities during the pandemic, as well as public safety requirements and recommendations for retail establishments. 

This order made many of the guidelines being already observed by these facilities in Orange County, including those listed above, mandatory for skilled nursing facilities across the state. The order also strongly encouraged other long-term care facilities, such as adult care homes, family homes, mental health group homes and intermediate care facilities for individuals with mental disabilities, to implement the guidelines where possible.

Furthermore, the order mandated local health departments be immediately notified if these facilities had any resident with new, confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, or of any clusters of residents or staff members with symptoms of respiratory illness. 

“North Carolina continues to take strong action to slow the spread of COVID-19, and today’s Order will help make stores safer, protect those living and working in nursing homes and get more unemployment benefits out quicker,” Cooper said in a statement. “Our state is resilient, and we will get through this crisis together if we all do our part.”

In a press release, Cooper also stressed the importance of staying informed about the pandemic through reliable sources, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, as the COVID-19 situation develops. 

@GMolero1

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com


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