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Dangers of COVID-19 in nursing homes

We just can’t seem to keep COVID-19 out of our nursing homes, where men and women most vulnerable to the disease live.

As of Tuesday, 19 nursing homes in West Virginia and 258 in Ohio were reporting COVID cases among residents. Most of the outbreaks were relatively minor. A few, such as those at the Crestview Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Home in Fairfield County, Ohio were very, very bad. More than 100 residents of that facility were sick as of Tuesday.

In West Virginia, the worst outbreak was at Huntington Health and Rehabilitation Center, with 97 residents affected.

It’s bad in our area, too. On Tuesday, the Wellsburg Center had 42 residents with COVID. The Cameron Nursing and Rehabilitation Center recorded 35 resident cases. The New Martinsville Care Center, already with at least eight deaths, had 26 active cases among residents.

In both states, many long-term care facilities reported coronavirus cases among staff members. Quite a few had managed to keep the virus from spreading to older residents.

I’ve love to be able to tell you things are going to get much better quickly. Unfortunately, there’s a reason for worry.

Many nursing home residents in both our states already have had COVID and managed to survive. In doing so, they built up antibodies against the disease and are immune from being re-infected — to a point.

That’s the problem. We don’t know how long the immunity lasts. Obviously, it varies from individual to individual, but the best estimate scientists seem to have is that on average, a person who’s had COVID is immune for only 5-7 months. It could be much less for some people.

You will recall that the disease began hitting our states in March and April. It was then, when we didn’t know how vulnerable older people are, that many nursing home residents contracted the disease. Again, many survived — but that was six to seven months ago.

Are the survivors once again prey to the virus? In both West Virginia and Ohio, public officials and those who run and staff long-term care facilities seem to have done what they could to keep COVID out. Sometimes, they’ve been successful. A significant number of nursing homes haven’t recorded a single case of the disease.

Sometimes, the virus finds a way in, even at facilities that dodged the bullet for months. The three hit hard in our area are examples of that.

It may be time to pull out all the stops again in our efforts to safeguard nursing home residents. What can most of us do? Just pray the vaccine gets here quickly.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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