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A news release issued by the Somerwoods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center said it housed the Pulaski County nursing home resident who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. But in an immediate retest, the resident tested negative.

"As a proactive measure, Somerwoods conducted and completed full COVID-19 testing of our residents and staff. From this proactive effort, we learned that one of our residents tested positive for coronavirus," said a media release issued by Brian Jaggers, the administrator at Somerwoods. "Since the resident was asymptomatic, and had no high-risk exposures, a physician requested an immediate retest in the event the result was a false positive. The resident was immediately relocated to our secure isolation unit, which we constructed in accordance with strict infection control standards. This resident’s roommate was immediately quarantined and has been retested. The results from these retests revealed that the resident and the roommate are negative for COVID-19.

"With the confirmation of the retests, Somerwoods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has zero known positive residents," the release stated. "Approximately 90 percent of the staff results are back and there have been zero positives. In the event any resident or staff becomes symptomatic, or tests positive, Somerwoods will work with the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, as well as the Department of Public Health, our Medical Director, and other physicians for guidance on care and communication."

Jaggers said, to ensure safety, Somerwoods is increasing monitoring of residents, including temperatures and other signs and symptoms of COVID-19 every shift.

"We are continuing to rigorously screen our staff," Jaggers said.

The media release outlined Somerwoods' comprehensive preparedness update.

"Twelve weeks ago, we began working to develop guidelines and protocols in the unfortunate event that the virus became prevalent in our local community, which it has in Pulaski County," Jaggers said. "To date, we now have implemented more than 55 guidelines based on CMS and CDC mandates and recommended best practices. We have spent this time training all staff members on the guidelines and have been conducting additional monitoring to ensure they are in place."

The following proactive steps have been taken:

• Somerwoods started screening visitors and staff before it was a CMS mandate. "We have rigid screening processes that we require all employees to complete with supervision prior to the start of their shift."

• The facility has established routine monitoring for the presence of signs and symptoms of the virus in patients. It is now general knowledge that many people of all ages can have the virus, yet remain asymptomatic.

• In early March, Somerwoods' parent company — Hanging Rock LLC, LTC —  partnered with Mother Earth Brewery, in Kinston, N.C., to produce hand sanitizer specifically for its company.

• In early March, Hanging Rock started making home-made masks in Goldsboro, N.C., and, to date, have produced nearly 24,000. "We hired over 30 individuals to sew, cut and inspect our masks, which are made of polypropylene and cotton with elastic ear loops."

• To supplement the supply of masks, Hanging Rock purchased 3-D printers to manufacture face shields and to date have made close to 1,000.

• In mid-April it became apparent that isolation gowns were becoming difficult to source; therefore, Hanging Rock began producing homemade gowns at its Goldsboro, N.C., location. "To date we have made close to 2,000 gowns."

• Additionally, Somerwoods has distributed KN- and N-95 masks, currently the gold standard, to all staff. "We were forced to pay exorbitant prices for these products, but knew that if we had a positive case of the virus in the building, they would serve as critical protection."

• Somerwoods has received multiple deliveries of surgical masks and is continuing to source more nationally and internationally.

• Hanging Rock partnered with a laboratory in South Carolina to provide COVID-19 tests that deliver results in 48 to 72 hours versus other testing sites that were taking from 7 to 10 days for results.

• These tests, when Hanging Rock acquired them, provided the quickest results available to nursing homes. "We are, however, searching for rapid tests that return results within hours. To date, these rapid tests have not been available to nursing home communities."

• Knowing how difficult this time is for its residents and family members with the imposition of visitor restrictions over a month ago, Somerwoods acquired iPads for virtual family visits with its residents and for telemedicine purposes.

• Somerwoods currently has enough PPE to provide care at this time. "However, we remain concerned about the national shortage of isolation gowns."

Jaggers said he hoped the community would rally behind its most vulnerable residents and the people who care for them.

"In this time of a national and global pandemic crisis, we hope that our community will come together to focus on supporting our residents and staff in the days and weeks ahead," Jaggers said. "While most of the attention to date has been placed on the acute care environment, please remember that the most vulnerable individuals reside in long-term and congregate care settings.

"Our patients, their families and our employees are heroes working together to overcome the impact of COVID-19. We will continue to work closely with the local and State health departments, and we will make every effort to combat this insidious disease head-on."

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