By Randy Arrington
LURAY, April 23 — The Lord Fairfax Health District reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday morning — six of those were in Page County, and all were hospitalized.
That now brings the total number of cases in Page County to 22 — a week ago there were only seven, with no hospitalizations.
Within the health district, Shenandoah County saw the next biggest gain with five new cases. Frederick County and the City of Winchester each picked up one new case, while Clarke County saw its first new case since April 15.
Among the 234 cases of COVID-19 within the health district, only 28 are hospitalized, and there have been no deaths.
The Virginia Department of Health has not provided any further details about the recent spike in Page County, except for a press release issued Wednesday about one patient testing positive for COVID-19 at Skyview Springs Rehab and Nursing Center in Luray.
The long term care facility near Page Memorial Hospital also issued a statement from the facility’s administrator, Jill Irby, on Wednesday shortly after VDH:
“Yesterday, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, Skyview Springs confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in one of its residents. In immediate response, we have begun collaborative efforts with officials from the Lord Fairfax Health District and Valley Health System to implement the most effective measures to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our residents and staff, including:
- Sending all residents with any COVID-19-like symptoms to the local hospital for precautionary care, and to separate them from entirely non-symptomatic residents.
- Testing all residents and staff at the facility to rule out other COVID-19 cases, which is being done [Wednesday].
- Coordinating with LFHD to implement optimal infection control measures in order to inhibit any spread at the facility or in the community.
- Continuing to provide compassionate care to all our residents, and coordinating closely with the local hospital whenever additional care is needed.”
The statement from the Skyview Springs’ administrator goes on to outline precautions the facility took prior to Wednesday’s announcement.
“Even before this first confirmed case, we began working diligently with local and state health departments, and utilized guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to implement the best protocols available to combat any spread of the virus,” Irby stated in the release. “This has included constantly monitoring all residents for any COVID-19 symptoms along with conducting daily staff screenings. We have already instituted a policy, which will remain in place for the foreseeable future, that a staff member must stay home if any symptoms of a respiratory illness arise, irrespective of their cause.”
Those precautions have also affected visitation at the Luray facility since early March.
“Since the very first confirmed cases in Virginia, we have restricted resident visitations and will be continuing this policy for the foreseeable future,” Irby stated. “However, we understand that connecting with family members and loved ones is incredibly important for the health and wellbeing of our residents, especially at this trying time. Therefore, we will continue to encourage connecting virtually by telephone or video call, email, text and instant messaging.”
Valley Care Management operates Hawksbill Assisted Living and Whispering Pines in Luray, as well as Journey’s Crossing in Elkton, TimberView Crossing in Timberville and Dogwood Crossing in Tazewell. Thursday morning, VCM sent the following statement to Page Valley News in response to a request for comment.
“Our hearts go out to all the residents and staff at Skyview Springs,” VCM’s Marketing Director Randy Atkins said in the statement. “We have no cases at our five assisted living communities with 250 residents.
“All of our employees are screened every shift and wear proper PPE,” Atkins continued. “Visitation has been suspended at all of our communities. We have setup alternative forms of communicating between residents and family members, such as electronic tablets and window visiting.”
A nursing home in Harrisonburg announced a major outbreak last week. Accordius Health, a 97-bed facility on South Avenue, reported that 81 patients and 12 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19. Only four patients tested negative, and the remaining patients were “presumed” to have the virus after refusing tests.
Wednesday night, WHSV TV3 reported that VDH had confirmed 13 deaths at the Harrisonburg facility. However, Thursday morning’s report from VDH showed only eight deaths in the city.
Among the 346 cases of the virus in Harrisonburg, only 23 have been hospitalized. Rockingham County has 163 reported cases, with 11 hospitalizations and one death.
Fairfax County continues to lead the state with 2,362 reported cases, 431 hospitalizations and 76 deaths. Prince William County is the only other locality over 1,000 cases at 1,027, with 108 hospitalizations and 18 deaths.
Statewide, 732 new cases were reported Thursday morning, with 94 new hospitalizations and 23 new deaths. As of Wednesday, 372 people in Virginia have died from COVID-19 in just over a month.
The total number of COVID-19 outbreaks in Virginia has increased to 168 — 92 of those are at long term care facilities, with a total of 988 cases and 78 deaths as of Wednesday.
“Residents of long term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to serious COVID-19 infection due their age, underlying medical conditions, and congregate living settings,” said LFHD Director Dr. Colin Greene. “For this reason, we are working closely with our local facilities to rapidly investigate confirmed and probable outbreaks.”
Gov. Ralph Northam established a task force on responding to outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities earlier this month.