MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) state veterans homes are ramping up testing of the COVID-19 virus as more resources become available for healthcare staff and residents. As tests increase, the homes are better positioned to identify employees and residents who have been exposed to the virus.
More tests confirm that 64 residents and 23 employees at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City tested positive for the virus. Eight residents have died from complications attributed to the virus. On April 18, the home completed testing of all residents.
“For several weeks, we have advocated for more testing at the state veterans homes, but test kits have been limited. Now that we’re able to increase testing, this significantly improves our capability to contain and reduce the risk of the virus from spreading,” said ADVA Commissioner Kent Davis.
The state veterans homes in Huntsville and Pell City have not reported COVID-19 cases as of Thursday. Three employees have tested positive for the virus at the William F. Green State Veterans Home in Bay Minette. Davis said the three homes are continuing to test residents and employees.
In addition to advocating for more testing, Davis consulted with the Alabama National Guard, Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the Birmingham VA Medical Center for assisting the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home that has the highest reported positive cases of the virus.
On April 18, the National Guard deployed a specialized unit, Task Force 31, to the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home where the task force disinfected residents’ rooms, hallways, common areas, and administrative offices. The National Guard will provide follow-on support to the other three state veterans homes.
On April 20, a 7-person team from the Birmingham VA Medical Center conducted an independent review of the home’s health-care operations. Additionally, an ADPH infectious disease specialist reviewed the home’s protocols on April 21. Reports from the independent reviews are pending.
On March 12, ADVA and the contracted state veterans homes’ care provider, Health Management Resources (HMR), began restrictive visitations at the four state veterans homes. Entry into the homes is limited to staff, necessary medical personnel, and immediate families of residents facing end-of-life situations.
Residents who test positive for the virus are moved to isolation areas inside the homes for further care and treatment. Employees who exhibit symptoms of the virus are prohibited entry into facility.
“Our department and HMR continue to work closely with the Alabama Department of Public Health, CDC, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, on all reported positive cases,” added Davis.
ADVA manages state veterans homes in Alexander City, Bay Minette, Huntsville and Pell City with a population of more than 700 veterans.
Information about ADVA’s veterans homes visitation policy and other precautionary measures the department is taking in its response to the COVID-19 crisis is posted to the department’s website at www.va.alabama.gov.