Four positive cases of the novel coronavirus, including three residents and one staff member, have been confirmed at one of Canby’s long-term care facilities — a worrying proposition for an illness that disproportionately affects those who are older or more infirm.
The cases are linked to County Side Living, a privately owned facility on Northwest 2nd Avenue in downtown Canby, which embraces a small-home and intergenerational approach and specializes in memory care.
The first affected resident was transported to the hospital by emergency medical personnel from Canby Fire District Sunday morning, and remains there as of Monday afternoon. A staff member at the facility said they were unable to give an update on their condition due to privacy concerns.
Staff confirmed the first positive case in an email to the Canby Now Podcast late Monday morning, saying they felt it necessary to inform all required agencies, staff and resident families before sharing it with the community.
Two more resident positives were confirmed by the facility on Monday afternoon, along with the staff result, for a total of four.
Country Side Human Resources Manager Michele Quinn told the Canby Now Podcast her facility had been preparing for a possible outbreak for several months. They had COVID-19 response protocols in place — though they’d hoped to never have to use them.
“I must say nothing can prepare you for the feelings we all had upon hearing one of our own had tested positive for COVID-19,” she said. “With that said, I can assure you we are all determined to work together and provide the safest environment we can for residents and staff, especially now that this horrible virus has touched our lives so personally.”
Quinn said that because of the outbreak, the facility has changed some staffing protocols, such as assigning caregivers to specific residents. Other staff members are at higher risk to the virus themselves, she said.
These and other factors have combined to make scheduling “more of a challenge” since Sunday, she admitted.
“I have been told by the health department that this is a common occurrence upon discovering there has been a positive diagnosis within a facility,” she said. “We are all pulling together, including the owner, Erik Berkey, who cares deeply for all our residents and staff and keeping them healthy.”
Much more concerning is the fact that the facility did not have access to N95 masks — one of the most important tools to help protect health care workers from contracting and spreading the virus — and other critical personal protective equipment (PPE) before this week.
“Previously, we have been wearing masks made for us and so kindly donated by family members as well as community members, but the N95 masks have not been available to us,” Quinn said. “We have been in contact with several county and local agencies who are providing PPE this week, including N95 masks, gowns and eye protection, which is very appreciated as we have had masks and gowns back-ordered since last month.”
These local agencies include Canby Fire, who Quinn said has been working with them since the beginning to help formulate their procedures and response plans
“We are so grateful for everything they have helped us with,” she said.
She said the facility staff is doing everything they can to fight the spread of COVID-19, including quarantining residents to their rooms, limiting residents’ contact to specifically assigned caregivers, and isolating the facility’s two buildings operationally — a protocol that has also been used in the past to fight outbreaks of the flu and other contagions.
Currently, the only cases have been reported in the facility’s north building.
“We already were screening staff before they were allowed to punch in and sending them home if they had any symptoms,” Quinn said. “We’ve also been monitoring, providing face masks, extra hand sanitizer at each resident room and various wall units installed around the facility.”
She said they have asked for increased cleaning and sterilization from the care home’s maintenance and housekeeping crew, and have held additional trainings to educate and refresh staff on the best practices for preventing the spread of an infectious disease.
Country Side was opened in 1999 by Berkey, a Hubbard area native who designed the facility for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Its campus has also included Thelma’s Place, a day respite program, and Whoopsy Daisy, which offered intergenerational child care, but these kinds of activities have been suspended since March by order of Governor Kate Brown.
The facility has 55 licensed beds, according to the Oregon Department of Human Services. Their current occupancy is 51 residents.
Another possible case is in a staff member who is being tested for the virus at Marquis Hope Village, an assisted living facility on the campus of the Hope Village Senior Living Community.
The pending staff result at Marquis was first disclosed by Oregon DHS in an April 17 report that compiled pending staff and resident results statewide.
Inquiries to the facility this weekend have not yet been returned. Marquis has 92 licensed beds, according to the state.
Seniors and those with underlying medical conditions are at much higher risk for serious repercussions or death from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. For that reason, the news of confirmed cases of the disease in a care home is something many in Canby had hoped to avoid.
Canby Fire District and other agencies involved in the local response met and reviewed protocol with all of the city’s long-term care facilities in the early stages of the global outbreak.
And, more recently, the city’s care homes were praised for their prompt and diligent attention to strict lock-down procedures and other infectious disease prevention guidelines now in effect statewide.
Despite the efforts, the virus has already exacted a heavy toll on Oregon’s long-term care facilities. As of April 14, 32 of the state’s 55 deaths were linked to senior care homes.