National Guard deployed to four nursing homes in Tippecanoe County

A resident at one of those long-term care facilities, University Place, died this week from COVID-19, marking the location's second death from the virus over the past two weeks.

Posted: Nov 5, 2020 4:13 PM
Updated: Nov 5, 2020 6:20 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - Members of the National Guard this week were deployed to support some of the hardest hit nursing homes in Tippecanoe County.

A resident at one of those long-term care facilities, University Place, died this week from COVID-19, marking the location's second death from the virus over the past two weeks.

The National Guard has also arrived at Creasy Springs, Rosewalk Village and Signature Healthcare. All of these places have been the site of outbreaks, according to Indiana's COVID-19 dashboard.

The number of cases at University Place rose last week to 14 cases among residents and 11 among staff.

Rosewalk Village has reported 55 cases and five deaths among residents. Signature Healthcare has reported 13 cases among residents, while Creasy Springs has reported another seven cases among residents.

But Indiana's COVID-19 dashboard lags behind the real-time number of cases. The dashboard on Thursday showed University Place, for example, as having less than five cases.

"I'm not sure if that would account for the discrepancy or if there's been a delay in reporting to the folks of the state who put these things on the dashboard," said Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler.

About 1,300 National Guard members have been deployed this week to 133 of the hardest hit facilities across Indiana. In Tippecanoe County, three members at each facility will provide support until at least the end of year.

Nearly 2,500 residents at long-term care facilities across the state have died, including 120 new deaths since Oct. 12 and seven total in Tippecanoe County.

Adler called nursing homes a perfect storm when it comes to the spread of the virus.

"You have a large number of elderly, frail individuals, most of whom have chronic medical problems that place them at higher risk," he said. "They're living together in a single location."

University Place executive director Dave Kinder said he hoped the National Guard members would have had clinical skills.

"They cant administer the tests, but they're helping with some of the paper work along those lines," he said. "We have visitation at our assisted living and our memory support parts of the building, and they're assisting taking family members over to the meetings and sanitizing the areas after the meetings and bringing them back, and a few other clerical type positions."

Kinder said the outbreak at University Place began after a resident contracted the virus at a local hospital.

Spokespeople for IU Health Arnett and Franciscan Health Lafayette issued a joint statement outlining the hospitals' steps to mitigate spread, including mandated mask-wearing and social distancing.

"IU Health and Franciscan Health have extensive experience in treating communicable disease," they said. "We have been working closely with the Indiana State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure all proper procedures are in place to protect everyone under our care."

Adler said the outbreaks at local facilities could also be due to asymptomatic staff or visitors.

"We also wonder about asymptomatic individuals coming into the nursing home and introducing the virus," he says. 

Kinder says the outbreak is limited to University Place's medical center, which is not accepting visitors. The facility has had no new cases since Oct. 29.

"There is no transfer of staff from the health center to the other areas of the building, and so we believe we've been able to contain it in that way," he said. 

He says visitors to other parts of the building are screened for symptoms. He added University Place has been working with the Indiana State Department of Health to follow COVID-19 guidelines and report cases.

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