COVID-19 takes its toll on local care facilities

By Cigale Ahlquist

In the year since the first COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States in March 2020, more than 28 million people had tested positive for the virus and more than 500,000 had died, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

In Minnesota, there had been more than 525,000 coronavirus cases and more than 6,500 deaths during that period, the state Department of Health reported.

Residents of senior living facilities were among the most affected.

Locally, there were 150 COVID-19 cases and 49 COVID deaths in the past year, as of March 2, among residents of Lyng­blomsten’s Care Center, which is licensed to house up to 225 people, Sam Patet, the facility’s communications director, said in an email. An additional seven cases of COVID-19 infections and two deaths were reported among residents of Lyngblomsten’s 165 senior apartments.

Meanwhile, St. Anthony Park Home, an 84-bed skilled nursing facility that had 70 residents in mid-March, recorded 26 COVID-19 cases and five COVID deaths among its residents during the past year, administrator John Barker reported in an email.

The pandemic also affected employees of both facilities. Lyng­blomsten—which employs a staff of 426, including 368 in the Care Center—had 170 COVID cases among staffers in the year up to March 2, while St. Anthony Park Home had 40 cases among its staff of 140 during the same period. Neither reported a staff death due to COVID in the past year.

“We have been fully staffed,” Barker said, “but it is not easy.”

COVID-19 illness among employees at Lyngblomsten has not caused staffing shortages, Patet said, noting that the facility hasn’t had to use temporary agency nursing services.

Patet said the number of resi­dent and employee COVID-19 cases there has remained low since late December, after an increase the last three months of 2020. As of early March, the Lyngblomsten Care Center had no active cases among its residents or its employees.

Vaccines getting administered

St. Anthony Park Home also had no cases among staff or residents as of early March and only one employee COVID case since Jan. 1, Barker said. He added that 99 percent of his staff and residents have been vaccinated since that program began in late December.

“The vaccine gives hope,” Barker said. “I don’t think anything changes this year. But by the summer of 2022, we may get some normalcy back in our lives.”

CVS Health, in partnership with the CDC’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, has held three vaccine clinics for residents and employees of Lyngblomsten’s Care Center. As of early March, 96 percent of Care Center residents had had at least one dose of the Moderna vaccine, and 94 percent had received both doses. About 75 percent of Care Center employees had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“We are cautiously optimistic that in the coming months, life will slowly, but surely, be able to return to normal for our residents and staff,” Patet said in his email. “While our residents have had some opportunities to socialize with family, friends and one another for several months—for example, small-group activities, essential-caregiver visits, family/friend visits inside our campus’s chapel—they are looking forward to more opportunities as conditions develop favorably.”

Cigale Ahlquist is a Twin Cities freelance writer for the Bugle

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