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21 COVID-19 deaths in Mecklenburg County tied to long term care facilities / June 24, 2020
COVID-19 outbreaks in Clarksville and Chase City nursing homes are responsible for 21 of Mecklenburg’s 24 reported deaths from the respiratory disease.

After receiving criticism for not publicly disclosing coronavirus fatalities associated with long-term care facilities, the Virginia Department of Health reversed course last week, updating its reporting to reveal the terrible toll of COVID-19 on vulnerable nursing home populations.

Sentara MeadowView Terrace in Clarksville, which first experienced an outbreak in early April, has seen 13 deaths and 83 confirmed cases of COVID-19, encompassing both residents and staff. Chase City Health & Rehab, where an outbreak was first reported May 8, is scene of eight deaths and 92 cases. The caseload and virus death figures were released by VDH on Friday.

Explaining the change in reporting on nursing home outbreaks, Gov. Ralph Northam said the continued spread of COVID-19 has superseded the health department’s emphasis on protecting patient privacy.

“VDH has previously released aggregate data about outbreaks in long-term care facilities, given their responsibility to protect patient and facility anonymity under the Code of Virginia. However, due to the widespread nature of this pandemic, it is now unlikely that releasing facility information would compromise anonymity or discourage facilities from participating in a public health investigation,” stated the release by the Governor’s Office. “Recently released data from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has also been inconsistent, creating public confusion.”

Speaking directly on the issue, Northam said Virginia will funnel some $246 million in aid from the federal CARES Act to long-term care facilities to assist with the care of patients infected with the virus. The funding is accompanied by greater public reporting of the pandemic’s impact.

“The lockdowns of long-term care facilities to protect residents and staff from the spread of COVID-19 have been hard on residents and their families,” said Northam. “These actions will help support long-term care facilities as they ease those restrictions, while keeping their residents safe and ensuring that the public gets accurate information on the spread of this virus in these facilities.”

Since the spread of the virus at MeadowView Terrace and Chase City Health & Rehab, there have been no more outbreaks in nursing homes in Mecklenburg, Brunswick and Halifax counties, which together make up the Southside Health District. That information is contained in the latest data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last week.

According to the federal agency, as of June 19, no positive cases among residents or staff have been reported at either MeadowView Terrace or Chase City Health & Rehab. The CMS website deems the status of the two outbreaks as “pending closure.”

An outbreak is defined by the Virginia Department of Health as two or more confirmed positive cases identified at a single location. Outbreaks are typically closed when two incubation periods (28 days) have passed without the onset of new illness. Outbreaks are labeled as “Pending Closure” if 28 days have passed without a documented new case and the outbreak has not yet been closed in Virginia Outbreak Surveillance System (VOSS), data collection system utilized by the Virginia Department of Health.

Across Virginia, there are a total of 6,608 diagnosed COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and 1,013 deaths as of June 23.

Overall, through Tuesday, Mecklenburg County is reporting 237 cases and 24 deaths since the pandemic began. Brunswick County now has 92 total confirmed cases and one death, and Halifax County has 41 cases and one death. Brunswick County has seen a surge of new cases in the past week — 38 were confirmed in the past week.

Of the 7,911 people across the Southside Health District who have been tested for the COVID-19 virus, 3.3 percent have returned a positive test result. That number is up slightly from 1.9 percent on June 14.

The increase in positive results could be tied to the higher number of testing encounters that took place in the Southside Health District since June 12. More than half of all tests administered in the Southside Health District occurred in the past week and a half.

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