A Marion County, Miss., woman is worried about her grandmother’s safety after an employee at her nursing home in Columbia tested positive for COVID-19. The granddaughter contacted the Mississippi Free Press last night saying that the facility, The Grove, had disclosed the news to her family that evening. Shortly afterward, the nursing home sent a letter to residents’ families.
“We want to inform you that we have received confirmation that an employee at The Grove has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Resident safety is our top priority and this employee is at home under self-quarantine,” The Grove Administrator Michael A. Bradshaw wrote in an email to residents’ families late Saturday night. “We are doing everything we can to ensure we stop the spread of COVID-19 within our facility, including staying in very close communication with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking all appropriate steps.”
The letter offered no indication that the facility plans to seek tests for other employees or residents. But the woman who first informed MFP about the employees’ diagnosis said staff told her family only that The Grove, an 80-bed facility, plans to keep a check on the temperatures of employees and residents. She said the staff told her they would quarantine employees if they detect a fever or other symptoms, like coughing or difficulty breathing.
But people can be infected with and spread COVID-19 for up to two weeks without showing symptoms, medical experts have found.
“I think that what’s most troubling, besides the fact that my loved one has potentially been exposed to this deadly virus, is that there seems to be no clear plan for moving forward beyond frequently taking temperatures and waiting for symptoms to appear,” said the granddaughter, who asked not to be identified. “That is not a plan of action. It’s just a reaction, and one that’s coming much too late.”
The Grove did not answer calls from the Mississippi Free Press Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Saturday night’s email does not indicate when the employee last worked or how closely that person interacted with other employees and residents.
In line with Centers for Disease Control recommendations for nursing homes, The Grove suspended all visitation privileges starting March 12, one day after the Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed the Magnolia State’s first COVID-19 patient in Forrest County, around 30 minutes west of Columbia. MSDH confirmed Marion County’s first case on March 23, two more cases on Saturday morning and a fourth on Sunday.
“We understand you are concerned about your loved one, but it is crucial that we continue to restrict visitation to reduce the spread of this virus,” Bradshaw said in his email to family members Saturday night. “We also understand that connecting with family members is incredibly important to our residents. Family members are encouraged to connect with their loved ones through video chat, calling, texting, or other social media formats.”
In the email, Bradshaw said The Grove will alert family members if their “loved one is suspected or diagnosed with COVID-19.”
“While I appreciate the steps taken to prevent it from happening in The Grove, there should have been a plan in place for this scenario,” the granddaughter who first contacted the Mississippi Free Press said. “I hope they mobilize quickly to get all employees and residents access to testing given the urgency of this situation. It’s frightening that the life of someone you love is completely out of your hands in a moment like this, and I hope The Grove acts in a way that retains my trust in their ability to provide care.”
COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred at several nursing homes across the country. In one King County Washington nursing home, 167 people linked to the facility tested positive, including residents, relatives and health care workers, but seven residents showed no symptoms at all.
In its letter, The Grove encouraged family members to call their facility at 601-736-4747 for information on their family members. The Grove is next door to the county hospital, Marion General Hospital, which Forrest Health owns.
“We know this is a difficult time for everyone. We will continue to provide you with updates as they become available,” Bradshaw said in his letter to families Saturday evening. “Please know that we are strictly adhering to all directions from the local and state health department.”
In partnership with the Hattiesburg Clinic, Forrest Health runs a Cough and Fever clinic in Hattiesburg that recently began offering curbside COVID-19 testing. Patients must book an appointment at www.curbsidecovid.com.
Disclosure: Mississippi Free Press reporter Ashton Pittman’s grandmother is a resident at The Grove.
The Mississippi Free Press has an interactive map showing diagnosed coronavirus cases across the state.