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COVID outbreak at Buckhead nursing home infects nearly 50 residents

By J.D. Capelouto – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Carrie Teegardin – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

(CNT) City News And Talk #atlanta-ga

Seven months after nursing homes across the state first struggled to contain the coronavirus, a recent outbreak at a Buckhead facility shows how isolated outbreaks are continuing to sicken residents in Georgia’s long-term care centers.

At the William Breman Jewish Home on Howell Mill Road, 57 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 10 have died during the course of the pandemic, according to the Department of Community Health’s daily status report. Three staff members have also tested positive at the nursing home, which currently has about 60 residents.

Until mid-October, the home had reported just a dozen residents testing positive throughout the pandemic. But in the last two weeks the outbreak quickly spread through the facility, according to the state reports.

The home said it had just 12 cases from March to May, when the pandemic began. “We hadn’t had a single resident case since that time until this new spike. In this current outbreak, we had a total of 46 positive cases,” said Shari Bayer, a spokeswoman for Jewish HomeLife, which operates the William Breman home.

The number of COVID-related deaths for the home included in the state reports has fluctuated over time, and the home said some deaths were improperly included in early reports. State reports show six new deaths of residents with COVID-19 in October.

Bayer said inspectors found no deficiencies at the William Breman home during checks of its infection-control procedures during the pandemic, including one conducted last week.

“It’s a nightmare. … They had been doing well,” said Miriam Karp, whose 91-year-old mother lives at the home and recently tested positive for the virus. “Why is this happening now, seven months later?”

Across Georgia, long-term care facilities have fared better during September and October, in terms of outbreaks and deaths. August was the worst month of the pandemic for long-term care facilities, but October is on track to have the lowest number of deaths and infections of the pandemic, said Tony Marshall, president of the Georgia Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes and assisted living communities.

Along with the Buckhead facility, state figures show that nursing homes in Ellijay, Fairburn, Eastman and Lafayette have all been hit with outbreaks in October after staying relatively safe for most of the pandemic.

Since the pandemic began, more than 2,600 Georgians in long-term care facilities have died from the virus, according to the state. At least 15,300 long-term residents and more than 8,000 staff have tested positive in spite of state and federal requirements for testing and limits on visitors at nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care homes.

Karp said her mother was tested on Oct. 15, and the results came back three days later. Her mother is so far asymptomatic.

Throughout this month, Karp has received email updates from management every few days informing families about the increasing case numbers. Families are not allowed to visit the facility.

“We are helpless. We can’t be there,” said Karp, adding that she wishes the facility would provide better communication about her mother’s condition and vitals and how they plan to move residents to adjust to the outbreak.