Mercer County nursing home reports more than 30 active cases; state officials bemoan lag in testing results

A Mercer County nursing home is reporting 32 active coronavirus cases among residents and staff.

The latest number is a significant increase from Monday, when dozens of tests were still out and the nursing home had already asked for help from state agencies and the National Guard.

“Many who have tested positive have been without symptoms,” Stefanie Compton, administrator of Princeton Health Care Center, wrote in an update today.

The nursing home said it would continue to suspend visitations until further notice while encouraging window visits, the use of Skype video conferencing, phone calls and written communication.

Admissions and re-admissions  are also on hold until further notice.

In a Friday update, the nursing home reported that it had 10 total confirmed coronavirus cases since March.

By today’s update, the nursing home was describing 42 cases since March. The nursing home said it reports its cumulative numbers.

So the total number of recently-identified cases is 32.

A third round of mass testing this year involved 279 residents and employees on Thursday, the nursing home reported. All of those results have been received now.

Now, weekly mass testing will continue until officials conclude it is no longer needed. Another round of mass testing is scheduled for Wednesday.

“We have requested additional assistance from local and state health officials and also requested assistance of the National Guard for testing purposes,” Compton wrote.

Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice, during a briefing today, said he is directing that support to the nursing home.

“Absolutely, the National Guard at my order, is running to the fire. We’ll do everything we can to suppress this situation and suppress it immediately,” the governor said.

Nursing home outbreaks have been a major source of covid 19 cases across the country, with Justice placing particular emphasis on testing in West Virginia nursing homes.

Through the end of last week, the state Department of Health and Human Resources listed just 46 active cases among residents and staff at facilities across the state.

Considering there are 9,750 residents and 14,000 staff overall, that translates to a positive rate of just .19 percent, a lower rate than in West Virginia’s overall population.

Bill Crouch

But DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch continued to express concern today that the rate for turning around test results lags significantly.

State officials like Crouch warned on Monday that a lag of seven days or more essentially renders testing meaningless for contact tracing.

Speaking today on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Crouch said that lag can have a detrimental effect on identifying problems like those at Princeton Health Care Center.

“That’s a good example of where delayed results are concerning,” Crouch said.

“We’ve got to get results back quickly to be able to deal with that.”

Delays in testing results have been reported across the country, as demand for tests ramps up but labs are stretched past capacity.

“It’s a national problem,” Crouch said, adding that state government is trying to become more independent on processing tests. He said that could develop through cooperation with West Virginia University or by increasing capacity at the state lab. But that improvement could take weeks and weeks. 

“If we can’t get our test results back for another week or ten days,” he said, “we really lose that rhythm of trying to keep people safe.”

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