West Virginia nursing homes continue coronavirus tests

CHARLESTON — Testing of the state’s 124 nursing homes continued Thursday, while an investigation at a nursing home in Jackson County continues.

Bill Crouch, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources, said Thursday during the daily coronavirus briefing at the State Capitol Building that 36 percent of the nursing home facilities where coronavirus tests have been initiated have resulted in tests going to the state lab in South Charleston or LabCorp.

Of the 124 nursing homes in the state, 47 have initiated testing of residents and staff and 23 facilities have completed testing with results pending. So far, 2,116 tests have come back negative with 4,211 tests pending. There are as many as 28,000 nursing home residents and staff being tested with 7.6 percent of results coming back negative.

“We appreciate all the owners, the providers, and CEOs, and the employees themselves who work on the front lines with those residents and go into those buildings every day,” Crouch said.

Gov. Jim Justice said the goal was to complete testing for all nursing home residents and staff by the end of the week, but testing would likely continue into the beginning of next week.

“They’ve done great work in testing all of the nursing homes and they are proceeding ahead very, very quickly there,” Justice said. “It’s a monumental task when you think about it. We tested 22,000 people in 40 days and now we’re testing 28,000 people in a very, very concise period.”

Justice said West Virginia was the first state in the nation to start mandatory testing of nursing home residents and staff. The Wall Street Journal found that more than 10,000 coronavirus-related deaths were linked to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. A few days ago, President Donald Trump ordered nursing homes to report coronavirus deaths to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Justice signed an executive order last week ordering all nursing home residents and staff to be tested, including those who had already been tested since the start of the outbreak in West Virginia March 17. The executive order doesn’t include assisted living facilities or other senior living facilities, but Justice said that could be next.

“Once we complete this, this will spill right over into our assisted living areas and so forth, so we’ll be able to test more and more,” Justice said.

DHHR’S Bureau for Public Health has taken the lead on conducting the testing with help from the West Virginia National Guard, which has tested 500 people at four of the nursing home facilities at state-owned hospitals with another facility being tested today.

Last week’s executive order was motivated by a delay in testing at Eldercare Health and Rehabilitation in Jackson County. A staff member tested positive for the coronavirus April 6 but testing of residents and staff didn’t start until April 14 and 16. According to a press release from Eldercare, 64 out of 88 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, while 32 out of 95 staff members have tested positive. At least three Eldercare residents have died from coronavirus-related infections.

“We are investigating that,” Crouch said Thursday. “I can’t provide a lot of information now, but we will certainly have a report on that when we’re done. At this point, we’re watching closely and we’re in communication with them. We will have more to report on it when we have more information on it.”

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)


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