Virginia nursing homes may still be long way out for reopening

Posted at 10:38 PM, Jun 20, 2020

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Visiting through a window or on a virtual call are the main ways of how people have been seeing their loved ones in a nursing home since March.

Donna Smith, of Virginia Beach, last saw her mom Mildred Stevens between the glass at Beth Sholom Village on Mother’s Day.

Beth Sholom Village is a nursing home, assisted living and skilled rehab facility in Virginia Beach.

“We miss the interaction and giving her hugs and bringing her candy and all we used to do on Sundays,” Smith said. “Her whole week would revolve around us being there as a group. That’s been tough.”

Smith said her 93-year old mother has been at the nursing home for a couple of years. Mildred has dementia.

According to Smith, her mom has been doing well, especially during the COVID crisis, due in large part, she said, to the staff.

“They’re all professional, caring,” said Smith. “It’s almost if their family and our family are intertwined.”

Rebecca Moralez is a registered nurse and an administrator of The Berger-Goldrich rehab center at Beth Sholom Village.

Moralez said staff at Beth Sholom has been vigilant when it comes to the virus. They’ve been staying on top of the ever-changing CDC guidance, constantly communicating with families and providing more time for therapy and social activities for residents.

“It’s just made us focus in a different manner and meet their needs in a different way, and it may be in a better way than what we did before,” Moralez said. “We have not seen a decline in the overall well-being of them psychosocially.”

Latest statewide numbers show there are 1,504 confirmed deaths from COVID-19. More than 900 of those deaths happened in long-term care facilities

At Beth Sholom, however, Moralez said there has not been an outbreak and no residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement, Moralez said:

"As always we wish to be transparent with our family members in the community regarding COVID -19. While we have not had an outbreak of COVID-19 in our facility we have had six incidents that warranted action to protect our residents and staff.
"We had one patient who transferred from another facility unknowingly who did test positive with COVID. The patient did admit directly to our isolation unit per our facility policy. The patient did have to be treated in the hospital for a moment of time, but has fortunately returned back to us.
"Beth Sholom has had a total of five staff personnel test positive from the unfortunate beginning of COVID -19. Each time the staff person was quarantined from the facility per the recommendations and guidance of CDC and VDH guidelines."

Beth Sholom, along with the rest of the nursing homes in the state, continues to wait on the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for specifics for reopening.

“It has been a little disorganized,” Moralez said. “I don’t think there is clear and concise information.”

Nursing homes have recently had to comply with new CDC requirementsto go into phase one of reopening. For the first time, nursing homes are reporting their case numbers to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).

According to the VDH, so far, the reporting process has been inconsistent. Recently released data from the federal CMS has also been inconsistent, creating public confusion.

Mandatory testing is also required. A “baseline” or point prevalence survey includes testing every single person at the center at the same time.

Earlier this week, the state National Guard tested everyone at Beth Sholom Village, including 253 staff members, 107 patients and 56 assisted living residents.

Moralez said they’re waiting on test results, but more steps are involved, and opening back up could still take weeks.

“They want to see their loved one and want to hug them and that’s what we want as well but we have to do it the safest way possible,” she said.

VDH has a goal to complete baseline surveys of all Virginia nursing homes by July 15, 2020.