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Tragic

Long-term care facilities need to be sealed off

We have known for more than a month that COVID-19 is especially terrible in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for the elderly. It was in early March that the coronavirus began taking its terrible toll at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington. To date, 40 deaths have been linked to the outbreak there.

Nursing home officials acted quickly and decisively to the news from Washington. Most seem to have restricted visitors severely and taken extra pains with measures such as disinfection and use of protective equipment.

Yet the virus managed to find a way into the Wayne Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Wayne County, West Virginia. State Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch broke the awful news on Tuesday.

Last week, 58 patients and 70 staff members at the home were tested for COVID-19, Crouch said. Results were delayed until Monday night. Then, it was discovered that 36 residents of the home, along with 30 employees, had contracted the disease.

What went wrong? Frankly, we don’t have enough time to find out with certainty. A thorough investigation could take weeks, even months. By the time results are available, it may be too late for residents of scores of other nursing homes throughout West Virginia.

We do not pretend to be public health experts, so we do not know precisely what additional steps can be taken to safeguard nursing home residents.

One improvement could be made in testing residents and staff for COVID-19. Devices capable of delivering results in minutes, not days, are available. West Virginia officials need to do all in their power to get some of them and deploy them to nursing homes.

Other than that, we — and obviously, many others, do not know what more can be done. Clearly, however, long-term care facilities need to be virtually sealed off from the outside world.

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