ALBION — The Noble County Health Department has confirmed that a third nursing home in the county has had a positive case of COVID-19 inside its facility.
The new case was reported at North Ridge Village in Albion. It’s the third long-term care facility to have at least one known case, after outbreaks were previously reported at Sacred Heart Home in Avilla and Lutheran Life Villages in Kendallville.
Once the patient was identified, they were moved outside of the nursing home and the facility has had no other known cases at this time, Noble County Health Officer Dr. Terry Gaff said.
Staff are taking additional precautions to try to prevent any further spread beyond the one known resident.
“Further investigation regarding both residents and staff are ongoing with the cooperation of North Ridge Village and the Indiana State Department of Health,” Gaff said. “No other cases of the COVID-19 virus are as yet known in association with North Ridge Village long term care facility.”
Outbreaks at the facilities in Avilla and Kendallville have been cited as the drivers behind most, but not all, of the COVID-19 activity in Noble County over the last two months. To date, the county has had 192 total cases and 21 deaths, more than double the cases of the next-highest neighbor in Steuben County, which has had 80 total cases since March.
COVID-19 in long-term care facilities has been a priority focus for state and local health officials, since people over 60 years old are far more likely to have seriously complications or potentially die from a coronavirus infection.
Statewide, 224 long-term care facilities have had at least one positive patient and 142 facilities have reported at least one death, as of the Indiana State Department of Health’s last weekly update on Monday.
Long-term care facilities account for about 13% of cases overall, but about 47% of the statewide deaths.
Just over 91% of all Indiana deaths have been people 60 years old or older.
When long-term care facilities get new cases, state health department strike teams are generally called in to assist and help facilities with identifying cases, testing staff or residents and forming a plan to try to reduce further spread.
Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Rusyniak said the response is generally a three-step process.
First, if a person in a nursing home is symptomatic, the strike team will help conduct a test to determine whether an illness actually is COVID-19, with results typically available within 24 hours, Rusyniak said.
If it is COVID-19, strike teams will work with the facility to determine how many other residents or staff members may have been exposed in close contact and then can assist with testing those people.
“If we find out indeed there is a case of COVID in a long-term care facility, then we follow up with our ... COVID-plus team and they’ll come, work with the facility, figure out how many residents are in that area or if it’s staff how many residents that staff interacted with and then figure out how many tests are required,” Rusyniak said.
Finally, infection control specialists will help analyze the building layout, population and staffing and assist in determining a plan for separating or “cohorting” residents and assist staff in safety precautions in an effort to prevent wider spread in the facility.
“(It) can take three days or so and it’s really thoughtful and done in a way to reduce outbreaks,” Rusyniak said.
While much of the state continues reopening during Indiana’s five-step “Back on Track” program, nursing homes remain one type of facility that are staying on lockdown from the public due to the heightened risk to residents if the virus slips in unnoticed.