COVID-19 outbreak hits Opelika nursing home, 56 residents test positive along with 23 employees

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OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – A COVID-19 outbreak inside an Opelika nursing home may have contributed to the deaths of multiple residents and sickened dozens more, including staff members.

Thursday, April 16th, Annie Swanson, the administrator at Arbor Springs Health & Rehab Center, sent a statement to News 3 regarding the infections and what the nursing home and rehabilitation facility is doing in response to the virus.

“Sadly, since this began, nine residents who tested positive have ultimately died. The Alabama Department of Public Health determined two of those deaths were not the result of the virus. ADPH has not made determinations with regard to the other deaths. Three residents who passed away were on hospice care before the coronavirus outbreak,” shared Swanson.

Swanson says Arbor Springs, located next to East Alabama Medical Center, is one of the largest nursing homes in the state. To date, they have had a total of 56 residents test positive for the virus, including 42 in the very first round of testing. A number of the residents required hospitalization. On average, Arbor Springs has around 170 residents living at the facility.

There are now 21 active cases at Arbor Springs. Included in the 21 are 15 residents who have never exhibited any symptoms. Swanson says residents with the virus are being isolated and monitored closely for any change in their condition. 23 of 231 employees tested positive for the virus as well, including nine who have recovered and returned to work.

“We want to express our gratitude to our medical professionals and dedicated caregivers who come to work every day, understanding the risks of caring for those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. We want to thank our area hospitals for their partnership and excellent care. COVID-19 has been hard for all of us, and it has created unique challenges for skilled nursing facilities whose residents’ age and health make them more vulnerable to infection,” Swanson said.

Swanson explained, like many nursing homes in Alabama, Arbor Springs began taking steps to safeguard residents and staff before the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the state. They limited contact among residents, and closed facilities to outside visitors before the state and the federal government required them to do so.

“Despite our best efforts, the virus found its way into Arbor Springs,” she said.

Swanson says a resident and an employee tested positive in late March. From there, Swanson says the facility followed all state and federal protocols to protect residents and staff.

“We have taken every possible step to determine the extent of infections and to contain the virus. Still, east Alabama has been hit particularly hard in this outbreak, and we have experienced a significant impact as well,” she said.

Swanson says throughout this process, facility administrators have been in continual contact with the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Lee County Health Department. Swanson says they have been open and forthcoming with our residents, their families, and our staff during this difficult time.

“We believe our efforts to combat the virus are showing results, and we will continue to do everything necessary to make sure we keep moving in the right direction. Our full attention is focused on the safety of our residents and our team, and we will continue to take every precaution to protect them,” shared Swanson.

Swanson says at this point the nursing home facility has PPE equipment, but donations are always appreciated.

“Thank you to all of our families and our community for your support and prayers during this difficult time. Our staff of amazing caregivers cannot thank you enough,” she shared.

News 3 will continue updating you on this developing story.

Previous reports: Coroner confirms COVID-19 deaths at Opelika nursing home

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