By Joshua Wolfson, Casper Star-Tribune via Wyoming News Exchange

 

CASPER — Roughly 265 staff members and residents at a Casper longterm care facility will be tested and quarantined after a case of the coronavirus was confirmed there, health officials said Thursday.

The contagious nature of COVID-19 and the high-risk setting prompted the testing of all staff and residents as soon as possible, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department said in a statement.

That testing was performed Thursday. The announcement did not name the facility. However, the Wyoming Department of Health identified it as Life Care Center of Casper. The center’s director, Tess Bailey, later confirmed that a resident at the facility did test positive for COVID-19 and is now receiving care at a local hospital.

On Wednesday night, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department learned that the resident had tested positive. That person was tested after exhibiting symptoms, the health department said.

It’s unclear where that resident was originally exposed to the virus. The department did not offer details about the person who was infected, other than to clarify that the resident was a previously identified case.

COVID-19 spreads easily and is of particular concern to health officials when it’s found in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, where older residents live in close quarters. Older people are also more likely to develop severe symptoms from the disease.

On Thursday, the state announced the death of a COVID-19 patient at a Washakie County nursing home that’s experiencing a coronavirus outbreak.

The county health department is relying heavily on its partnership with Wyoming Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital, to conduct so many tests at once, said Hailey Bloom, the agency’s spokeswoman.

“They offered us three testing sites, plus testing at our facility,” Bloom said. “Without that, it would be a logistical nightmare.”

Bloom said the residents are quarantining at the facility itself.

Given that some staff members are needed for the center to remain open, the Wyoming Health Department has permitted asymptomatic staff members to continue working. However, those workers would only be allowed to leave their homes to work, Bloom explained.

“Due to the large number of staff members required to quarantine, these individuals who are asymptomatic but awaiting test results will be allowed to work only with appropriate personal protective equipment to ensure residents receive continued and required care,” the Health Department said in an announcement.

Bailey confirmed in a Thursday evening statement that all staff and residents had been tested. If a resident tests positive, he or she will be placed in isolation within the building, she explained. Staff will recover at home and only return to work when they meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“Our primary concern is for the health and safety of our residents, nursing staff and other care providers,” Bailey said. “They are on the front line of this unprecedented outbreak. Our staff is trained in proper use of PPEs and are following all relevant guidelines in infection control. They are putting in heroic efforts to ensure that our patients are receiving excellent care.”

Bailey said the center would stay in regular contact with families and, since visitation remains restricted, would coordinate calls, video chats and window visits.

 

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