Nursing home COVID-19 outbreak kills 1, infects 10

A recent coronavirus outbreak at Peak Healthcare at The Pines nursing home in Easton has infected six staff members and four residents, and took the life of one resident, according to Talbot Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley.

EASTON — A recent outbreak at an Easton nursing home has caused six staff members and four residents to become infected with the coronavirus, and has resulted in the death of one resident, according to Talbot Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley.

As of Wednesday, Aug. 12, Wadley said, two of the four Peak Healthcare at The Pines nursing home residents who are confirmed to have contracted the virus had been admitted to the hospital.

Wadley also said two of those infected residents are on dialysis. That’s a variable that “always concerns” her, she said, because — as many health experts have noted — the associated condition puts the infected at higher risk for developing the more severe and deadly symptoms associated with COVID-19.

The county health department reported no new confirmed infections Wednesday among residents or staff at The Pines, though the health officer said it will be a few more days until all the tests come back following a facility-wide testing effort.

Jake Lighten, president of Peak Healthcare, which operates The Pines, said in a phone interview with The Star Democrat Wednesday he believes the virus’s spread is under control at the facility. In the next week, he said, he expects virus testing materials to arrive that will be able to provide results “on the spot” for residents and staff.

Lighten acknowledged testing challenges the facility experienced between March and August that he said might have contributed to the virus’s ability to infiltrate The Pines nursing home, as well as others across Maryland and the United States.

“It was challenging from a testing perspective. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “Today, we are able to test every week and we have tested every week all the residents and the staff. Now we are able to get most results between the next day and a few days after a test.”

Lighten nodded to an earlier outbreak at the Easton nursing home he said the facility had eliminated up until this recent onset of infections. The first outbreak, according to data from the Maryland Department of Health, infected three staff members and five residents, and resulted in two residents’ deaths.

Neither Lighten nor Wadley would confirm those two deaths, and when directly asked to verify the three-resident death toll, Wadley responded that the state’s data were “combining two outbreaks.”

Lighten asserted that there were “no deaths” associated with either of the two coronavirus outbreaks at the Easton facility — which contradicted Wadley’s confirmation of at least one resident’s death that she said occurred “a couple of weeks ago” and increased the county’s COVID-19 death toll to six.

Despite discrepancies in the data being reported at the state, local and facility levels, both Wadley and Lighten said they’re “concentrating a lot of effort” on slowing and halting the virus’s spread inside the nursing home.

In Wadley’s case, she said she’s also “closely” monitoring an outbreak at Candle Light Cove assisted living facility in Easton, which has reported that one staff member became infected with the coronavirus.

Of his efforts to curb the spread at The Pines, Lighten said he’s focusing on ramping up regular testing operations at the nursing home, and maintaining communication with the facility’s staff and residents, and their family members.

Communication, he said, “is a cure to the anxiety that we all feel” during the COVID-19 health crisis, and testing for the virus is “our best weapon” in the absence of a cure or a vaccine.

“It’s very heartbreaking to see that COVID is still there and we still have not defeated this terrible disease,” Lighten said. “We’re banding together — the families, the residents and the staff — and we’re supporting each other at this time.”

As of Wednesday morning, Talbot County had reported 406 confirmed coronavirus infections to date, with 58 residents actively infected.

Of the more than 400 residents who are confirmed to have contracted the virus since March, 342 reportedly have recovered and 46 have required hospitalization, according to county health data.

Wadley said Talbot has not seen any coronavirus-related hospitalizations among residents younger than 20 — but the 46 people who have required hospital care in the county through the pandemic’s entirety have ranged in age from 20 to 89.

The health officer, on Tuesday, Aug. 11, reported the county has seen one hospitalization in residents between the ages of 20 and 29, two between the ages of 30-39, 10 between the ages of 40-49, eight between 50-59, 13 between 60-69, four between 70-79 and eight among those aged 80-89 years.

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