By Randy Arrington
LURAY, April 29 — The Virginia Department of Health has now reported the first fatality in Page County related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health officials are not providing any further information about the death reported on Wednesday morning — now the fourth within the Lord Fairfax Health District. Shenandoah County reported the first fatality in the district last Friday, and a second on Sunday. Frederick County reported its first death on Tuesday.
Statewide, the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has risen dramatically, with 30 new deaths reported overnight — 64 in the last two days. In fact, 42.5 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths in Virginia (222), have been reported in the last nine days.
VDH also reported two new cases of the novel coronavirus in Page County on Wednesday morning. That brings the total number of cases in the county to 91. Ten have been hospitalized.
Charleen Pettit, media spokesperson for Skyview Springs Rehab and Nursing Center, declined to comment Wednesday morning on the recent death reported by VDH — other than to say the reported fatality was “news to us.”
The Luray long term care facility was the site of an outbreak last week, when 59 of its 109 residents tested positive for COVID-19. According to the facility’s Vice President of Clinical Services, Amy Dean, 11 of those infected have been treated at the hospital and returned to the Luray facility, while two still remained hospitalized at Winchester Medical Center.
The first case was discovered at Skyview Springs on April 21. All residents and staff were tested the next day. According to Dean, 18 staff members also tested positive for the coronavirus and have been instructed to stay home. While the facility employs 115, those missing have created voids that are being filled with idle healthcare workers.
“We have signed a contract with Valley Health, and we are getting staff on a contract basis,” Dean said on Tuesday. “We use them on a day-to-day basis, as needed.”
Valley Health has reduced hours for some of its staff due to a period of reduced services mandated in order to help control the spread of COVID-19. However, the regional health system has established a $50 million paycheck protection fund to ensure that all employees receive at least 70 percent of their pay during forced furloughs. Some of those staff members are being utilized in other areas, such as nursing homes to help fill the void left by sick workers.
As of Wednesday, no new cases had been reported at long term care facilities in Page County after checking in with Skyview Springs and three nearby facilities in Luray and Elkton owned by Valley Care Management (Hawksbill, Whispering Pines and Journey’s Crossing).
When Dean was asked how the outbreak started in Skyview Springs, she simply stated, “We don’t know.”
The facility’s media spokesperson said she contacts the families of those residents who tested positive for COVID-19 on a daily basis with updates. The families of those who tested negative receive weekly updates.
The Skyview Springs staff extended its thanks to the community in comments made on Tuesday, regarding the wave of supplies and support the facility has received.
“The community support has been absolutely amazing,” Dean said. “They have sent food, drinks, [personal protection equipment, such as masks], popsicles to keep our residents hydrated… they even had a parade with balloons. We appreciate the community so much because they have been wonderful.”
Jeff Feit, Chief Medical Officer of Valley Health Medical Group, says that there has been a special caregiver who has put in 20-hour days and worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and health of Skyview’s residents — nurse practitioner, Angie Nesselrodt.
“Valley Health’s engagement with Skyview Springs begins with our medical team of Dr. Jim Dale and Angie Nesselrodt,” Dr. Feit said. “Dr. Dale and Angie have cared for the Skyview Springs community for years prior to these events.
“Over the last week, Angie has shown an extraordinary commitment to her patients and her profession that goes well above anything anyone would expect,” Dr. Feit continued. “She is a true hero, and we are honored to be associated with her.”
“Skilled nursing facilities represent a very vulnerable situation with respect to this virus pandemic, and this has become obvious with the Skyview Springs situation,” Dr. Feit stated on Wednesday morning. “We are lucky to have a partnership with the Virginia Department of Health and the leadership of Skyview Springs to work together to find solutions to difficult problems.”
Among the 206 outbreaks across Virginia being reported by VDH as of Wednesday morning, 116 are within long term care facilities, where there have been 1,407 cases of COVID-19 reported and 111 deaths. There are 11 reported outbreaks within the local health district. VDH defines an outbreak as two or more cases originating from the same location or source.
Across the Lord Fairfax Health District, VDH reported 27 new cases on Wednesday morning — 16 of those in Shenandoah County. However, only one new hospitalization was reported, also in Shenandoah County, and one new death (Page).
Most of the 37 hospitalizations are contained within three of the six jurisdictions within the health district: Frederick (11), Shenandoah (11) and Page (10). A complete breakdown by jurisdiction of the total number of COVID-19 cases is as follows (hospitalizations – deaths):
- 101 — Frederick County (11-1)
- 95 — Shenandoah County (11-2)
- 91 — Page County (10-1)
- 51 — Warren County (3-0)
- 36 — City of Winchester (36)
- 8 — Clarke County (1-0)
New cases seem to be leveling off in Harrisonburg and Rockingham, with five and four new cases reported Wednesday morning, respectively. However, Harrisonburg reported one new hospitalization and two new deaths. Twelve people have died in the two localities as a result of the virus.
Across the state, 622 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Wednesday, bringing the total to 14,961. Hospitalizations rose by 99 overnight. A total of 85,307 have been tested in Virginia — 2,554 just yesterday.
The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reports that 1,566 people are currently in state hospitals that have either been confirmed to have COVID-19 or are awaiting test results. Among those, 387 are in intensive care and 222 are on ventilators.
The VHHA also reports that 2,042 people in Virginia who have been confirmed to have COVID-19 and were hospitalized, have now been discharged.
On Monday, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced the issuance of $14.9 million in federal funding to “strengthen the Commonwealth’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.”
“The funding, awarded through the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases (ELC) cooperative agreement, was made possible by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,” a press release from the senators reads. “Specifically, the funding may be used by the Virginia Department of Health to establish or enhance the ability to aggressively identify cases, conduct contact tracing and follow up, as well as implement appropriate containment measures. It can also be used to improve morbidity and mortality surveillance, enhance testing capacity, control COVID-19 in high-risk settings and protect vulnerable or high-risk populations, as well as help healthcare systems manage and monitor system capacity.”