HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — It's been more than 40 days since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 at Accordius Health in Harrisonburg and staff said on Monday they are now on the road to recovery.
Officials at the facility said since the start of April, 22 residents died from COVID-19, and 75 have recovered.
Richie McAlevy, Regional Vice President of Clinical Services for Accordius Health, said there are no signs of active infections now at the facility.
He said staff members are now focusing on working with those who have long-term effects from the virus and are beginning to loosen some restrictions on residents.
"We've already done some limited things with those, like residents can come outside their room with a mask to do some work with physical therapy, or are going to get a shower in the shower room," McAlevy said. "So I think we'll sort of evolve one step at a time."
Officials at Accordius said they are taking the lift of restrictions slow and are looking at what is best for the community and residents.
McAlevy said they are also working with residents to make sure they are feeling comfortable and have now allowed outside food to come into the building too.
Visitation restrictions are still in effect and the small changes made to the facility's procedures are still in accordance with CDC guidelines.
McAlevy said most residents are still restricted to their rooms, but by the end of this week, they hope to allow minimum amounts of movement. Social distancing measures will still take place and residents must wear personal protective equipment.
A total of 81 residents and 12 staff members tested positive for the coronavirus when Virginia's nursing home task force helped provide point prevalence testing in April, testing everyone there on a single day.
Staff said they plan to hold a celebration of life late this month in honor of the 22 residents who died due to COVID-19.
The timeline at Accordius
On April 11, the Virginia Department of Health first reported that they were investigating an outbreak at a long-term care facility in Harrisonburg.
Details provided on the outbreak were scarce at first. Employees told WHSV on April 13 that the outbreak was at Accordius Health and then, on April 14, Dr. Jonathan Shenk, the Accordius medical director, confirmed those accounts.
On April 16, the Central Shenandoah Health District officially confirmed, with cooperation from Accordius Health, that Accordius was the location of the outbreak under investigation
By April 18, the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia's nursing home task force had collaborated, with assistance from UVA Medical Center on testing, to test all residents and staff members at the facility.
They confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 81 residents and 12 staff members.
Representatives of Accordius Health said in a statement that when the virus hit their Harrisonburg center, “it was like a freight train.” "We literally went from 1 mildly symptomatic case to 50 in 72 hours. There is still so much scientifically that is unknown about this virus and we, along with the rest of the medical and healthcare community are learning every day."
As response continued, they said clinical and operational teams reviewed COVID-19 response plans on a daily basis, initiating all necessary changes while monitoring residents closely throughout the outbreak.
The city of Harrisonburg dedicated two ambulances to the sole purpose of responding to calls from Accordius Health throughout the situation, and first responders began a thorough process of decontaminating all ambulances after any calls.
"Our hearts are breaking along with yours about how this is impacting our residents and staff," a statement from Accordius said.
Many of the residents who tested positive did not show any symptoms, but were monitored closely by staff in case any developed throughout the outbreak.
“Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions are at highest risk for poor outcomes related to COVID-19. Our community grieves with the families who have lost loved ones and who have loved ones who are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The community continues to collaborate to meet the needs of all the residents of Accordius Health,” said Dr. Laura Kornegay, the director of the Central Shenandoah Health District.
According to the Central Shenandoah Health District, they've responded to the outbreak in the following ways:
• The Virginia Department of Health/CSHD continues to organize the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) for on-site assistance for the increased needs related to this outbreak. These volunteers include nursing assistance, pastoral care assistance and social work assistance.
• Emergency Medical Services (Harrisonburg Fire Department, Harrisonburg Rescue Squad and Rockingham County Fire & Rescue) continue coordination to meet the transportation needs for residents requiring hospitalization.
• The staff at Accordius and the clinical staff from Valley Family & Elder Care are providing compassionate care to all the residents, and they are coordinating closely with the hospital when additional care is needed.
• The community has rallied support for residents and staff, including window visits and signs of support and thanks in the parking lot.
Some of WHSV's past coverage at Accordius
One of the residents who died of COVID-19 was Alberta Barbour, known by many as Ms. Alberta. We spoke with her family about the tragic experience. You can read their story here.
Another family told WHSV about the struggle they faced getting into contact with a mother at the facility and learning more about the situation.
WHSV also interviewed a Physician Assistant at the facility, who described what the medical staff did for the patients. Staff members say they've seen tremendous community support.