ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – At first glance, the numbers may shock some people when they read a report released by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health concerning nursing homes and COVID-19.
However, health officials said there is a great deal of progress in the report concerning the battle against the disease and residents in nursing homes.
Since the pandemic hit, 1,798 people in long-term facilities were infected by the disease and, of those, 416 of the elderly died.
The health department said May was the toughest month, with close to 700 cases; by July, that number had dropped to 130.
And the number of deaths has declined from triple digits to a much smaller number.
“We had 202 deaths reported from COVID-19 just in the month of May,” said Christopher Ave, a health department spokesman. “In July, we had 11 deaths reported.”
Early on, the county began a special task force to help nursing homes cope with the disease, Ave said. Most, including Marymount Manor in Eureka, strongly cooperated.
“They guided me each day. I was able to talk to one of their specialists, who was able to answer any questions I had,” said Keli Gaither-Carino, director of nursing at Marymount Manor.
She said there’s no doubt health officials helped her long-term facility bring down the number of cases and potential deaths.
A disease like COVID-19 is a huge challenge for long-term care facilities. In some cases, the people who are infected are in hospice or have one or more serious underlying medical problems.
“We helped them with everything from rapid testing to contact tracing to cleaning, disinfecting, then, of course, all the protocols that need to be in place to help others,” Ave said.
The St. Louis County Health Department was recognized by both the federal and state governments for its innovated task force to help people and the staff living and working in long-term care facilities.