Sign at Westminster

Long-term care facilities, like Westminster Woods, have been doing many things to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, even as cases rise in the community and at long-term care facilities, the hardest hit in the latest wave of cases in the county.

In the past few weeks, Huntingdon County has risen to the top spot of positive cases of COVID-19 in the state, and some of the hardest hit places as a result have been the county’s long-term care facilities.

This seems to be in line with the rise of COVID-19 cases across the country, as the cases nationally continue to rise in what experts are saying is the third peak.

According to the state Department of Health Early Warning Dashboard for COVID-19, the county has gone from a rate of 93 per 100,000 residents in the previous seven days to 294.5 per 100,000 in the last seven days. with a PCR testing rate of 9.9%

With long-term care facilities in particular, a total of three facilities have been impacted so far, including AristaCare at both Woodland Park and Huntingdon Park as well as Westminster Woods.

In those three facilities, a total of 115 residents have been confirmed positive for COVID-19 as well as 24 staff members that have been reported has being positive, and three deaths in those long-term care facilities have been attributed to the coronavirus.

Kammi Booher, spokesperson for AristaCare at Woodland Park and Huntingdon Park, didn’t get the exact numbers of positive cases among staff and residents at AristaCare at Woodland Park, but she noted 20 residents have recovered thus far.

She noted that there are residents who are asymptomatic or they are reporting to show mild symptoms.

But, she notes the staff who are there every day are in “fighter mode,” knowing they have to do everything they can for their residents to make sure those who are positive will recover.

“We all know we have a job to do, and we’re there to do it,” she said. “The community has been supportive and completely understanding, and that’s helped as well.”

At AristaCare at Huntingdon Park, Booher said staff are doing the same, isolating all positive residents and doing what they can to keep everyone as safe as possible.

Unlike AristaCare at Woodland Park, Huntingdon Park is two floors, which makes it a little easier to isolate positive residents, Booher added.

As of Friday, Westminster Woods had three residents who are positive for COVID-19 and two staff members who tested positive. All cases are asymptomatic at this time.

Lisa Cirignano, administrator at Westminster Woods, noted that all facilities, once there’s an active resident case of COVID-19, go through an infection survey control with the state Department of Health, and Westminster Woods passed all parameters that involve infection protection.

“They found no deficient practices, and we’ve been praised for all of the practices we have in place,” she said. “We continue to remind our staff, even those who aren’t direct care workers, to stay vigilant with anything concerning infection protection, including hand washing, physical distancing and wearing masks, and to keep all of those things in mind, both professionally and personally. With more people out and about, and with schools back in place, it’s important to keep it all in mind.”

Cirignano said it’s been a difficult seven months dealing with the pandemic and the restrictions they’ve had to put in place to keep everyone safe, but she knows that her staff, as well as the staff at all of the county’s long-term care facilities, are going above and beyond to do what they can.

“Even if there’s an outbreak, that doesn’t mean they’re not committed to doing everything they can to keep everyone safe,” she said. “But, you can do everything right, and this doesn’t discriminate. You have to seize the great moments as they happen, but we all know that at any day, we could all be in a very different situation.”

There’s one facility in the county that hasn’t seen any positive cases of COVID-19, at least for now, and that’s Shirley Home for the Aged.

Administrator Brenda Yohn said they’ve continued to do the same things they’ve been doing at the start of the pandemic, including restricting visitors to the inside of the facility, asking all staff to wear masks and encouraging hand washing and physical distancing.

“We used to have all residents come to our dining hall for meal times, but now, residents have to go the dining room in rotations so they can socially distance,” said Yohn. “We’ve done more outside visits to our gazebo with social distancing and masks, and that’s been going well, but that’s all subject to being COVID free.”

The facility will be undergoing more PCR testing of all residents next week, and as the county moved to the moderate rate in August, they were also required to go through universal testing of all residents and staff.

“Everyone who tested in August was negative, so we’ll be doing that once again,” she said.

Though the cases at SCI Smithfield have not risen dramatically, they are seeing an uptick in cases. As of Friday, SCI Smithfield reported a total of 19 inmate cases and nine staff cases.

Additionally, at SCI Huntingdon, there hasn’t been a significant rise in cases since the spring.

Hospital restricts visitorsDue to the rising number of COVID-19 cases throughout the entire county, Penn Highlands Huntingdon officials announced Friday afternoon they were restricting visitation on inpatient units for the medical/surgical portion of the hospital as well as the hospital’s intensive care unit.

One designated healthy support person is allowed in the emergency department and outpatient areas, and hospital officials plan to monitor the volume of COVID cases while keeping the safety of the community, staff and patients as their primary focus.

Kylie can be reached at khawn@huntingdondailynews.com.

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