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40 Alabama nursing homes in 20 counties have COVID-19 cases

Senior man in bed with nurse in retirement home. Caucasian male with asian woman. Holding hands with light leaks.

At least 40 nursing homes across 20 counties in Alabama have reported at least one COVID-19 positive resident or employee, according the Alabama Nursing Home Association.

ANHA spokesperson John Matson told APR Saturday that the association is aware of 40 facilities reporting cases. It does not have any information on deaths among residents or employees.

The Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Nursing Home Association are not currently releasing names of the facilities where cases have been confirmed.

At least one nursing home employee has died in Alabama, a nurse at Marion Regional Nursing Home in Hamilton. Several nursing homes have individually reported outbreaks including a nursing home in Hoover that said it has 36 positive cases among its employees and residents.

CDC guidance recommends that patients with symptoms in long-term care facilities should be tested for COVID-19. The Alabama Nursing Home Association has said it wants all residents and employees to be tested.

“Access to testing is improving, but still far from what it needs to be,” Matson said. “We stand by our earlier statement that nursing home residents should be in CDC Priority 1 for COVID-19 testing.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health has said nursing homes can test whoever they can, but supplies for testing have been limited in Alabama and across the country. PPE has also been limited at the state’s nursing homes.

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“The nursing homes are holding their own, but they need more PPE,” Matson said.

At least 137 long-term care facility employees and 135 long-term care facility residents have also tested positive, according to the Department of Public Health. The positive case counts from ADPH include both nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the Alabama Nursing Home Association says.

There are approximately 24,500 residents in state nursing homes, cared for by about 31,000 employees, Matson said.

Seniors are among those most at risk for serious health complications and death caused by the virus. About 67 percent of the verified deaths so far have been among those aged 65 and older.

At least 500 Alabama health care workers who work at hospitals and doctor’s offices have tested positive for the virus, the Alabama Department of Public Health says.

Statewide at least 3,191 people have tested positive as of Saturday afternoon. At least 91 people who tested positive for the virus have died, and of those, 61 have been verified as COVID-19 deaths.

Alabama nursing homes began limiting visitations on March 14, before that became a nationwide recommendation from the federal government. The focus early on was infection prevention at homes statewide, Matson said. But when COVID-19 cases are confirmed in a facility, infection control becomes the top priority.

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Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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