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Area long term care facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, related deaths
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Area long term care facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, related deaths

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Three recent COVID-19 deaths have been attributed to local long term care facilities, as have an number of positive cases.

According to the La Crosse County Health Department, nine area long term care facilities have had one or more confirmed cases among staff and/or residents, including 34 cases among residents in four different facilities in the past two weeks. Of the five total coronavirus deaths among La Crosse County residents, three were living in a long term care center, though not all in the same facility.

“Nationally, the spread of COVID-19 in long term care facilities has been a challenge since the very beginning of the pandemic,” the La Crosse County Health Department stated in a release Friday morning. “The virus has a high rate of mortality in older adults. As of today, 8.8% of long-term care residents in our county who became infected with COVID-19 have died.”

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One facility outbreak was due to a staff member who was asymptomatic and working before testing positive during a routine screening. By the time of the test results, residents had already been exposed and some became infected.

“This was despite staff following proper protective measures,” the Health Department stated. “The facility responded to the outbreak quickly, but the impact was significant. There is a clear risk of passing the virus to patients when staff contract COVID-19. In addition to the risks of death and illness, COVID-19 can quickly impact staffing capacity at long-term care facilities.”

The La Crosse County Health Department, in partnership with Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System, is working collaboratively with long-term care facilities to control the spread of COVID-19. The facilities, the Health Department iterated, are diligent in their work to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19, and all facilities are regularly surveyed by the State to assure they are following strict standards of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and professional guidelines and directives. Local long-term care facilities are also providing regular communications and support to the families of residents, the Health Department says.

As La Crosse County continues to have a high level of COVID-19 activity, the Health Department reminds community members viral spread in the community poses the most significant risk of infections in long-term care residents.

“Long-term care residents will continue to remain at high risk of mortality if people in our community do not follow the guidelines on avoiding large groups, masking, physical distancing and washing their hands,” the Health Department stressed. “It will take all of us to protect those at greatest risk. The Coulee COVID-19 Collaborative implores the community to follow the guidance at couleecovid19.org in order to slow the spread.”

Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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