Augusta Health responding to 'emerging COVID situation' at Ritenour Rest Home

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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) — Augusta Health says there is an "emerging COVID situation" at an assisted living facility in Staunton.

On Friday morning, a joint statement was issued by Augusta Health and Ritenour Rest Home.

Clint Merritt, MD, Chief Clinical Officer for Population Health at Augusta Health, said that the hospital has developed a collaborative relationship to help with the care of any patients who test positive for COVID-19 at the facility.

Dr. Merritt said at least one patient has tested positive for COVID-19 at Ritenour Rest Home, and as soon as that test came back positive, Augusta Health connected with staff at the facility to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, and infection control education.

Augusta Health will be testing all residents and staff at the assisted living facility to determine if there is an outbreak. At this point, it does not appear to have been classified as one by the Central Shenandoah Health District, because the number of outbreaks reported in the district has remained the same.

According to Augusta Health, they have been "providing proactive surveillance, PPE and social distancing guidance to long term care facilities in the Staunton-Augusta County-Waynesboro region" for a few weeks as a way to flatten the curve and reduce the number of cases in the area.

While Harrisonburg and Rockingham County have each seen large numbers of COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic, so far, numbers in the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro area have been relatively low. However, on Friday, cases confirmed in Staunton jumped from 23 to 34. It's unclear if that sudden rise is connected to the facility.

Augusta Health will be providing support and assistance, but will not publicly release any details about particular COVID-19 cases or the number of confirmed illnesses at a facility they're assisting.

They say that's to "protect the privacy of the residents and to keep strong collaboration with our partner facilities."

Statewide, the Virginia Department of Health only identifies that there have been cases at particular facilities if the facilities themselves agree to the release of information.

"We appreciate the response from Augusta Health and Augusta Care Partners,” said Lindsay Lowe, Administrator at Ritenour Rest Home. “The testing and support have been a great service to us.”

“Although this situation is a serious concern, it’s also been an affirming opportunity—Augusta Health, the Central Shenandoah Health District and Ritenour Rest Home are working closely together to care for patients in our community. We are thankful for the collaborative effort of everyone involved. The dedication and commitment from the Ritenour staff has been especially notable,” added Dr. Merritt.

As of May 15, the Central Shenandoah Health District had confirmed 11 total outbreaks, with two in long-term care facilities (one of which is Accordius Health Harrisonburg), six in congregate settings, one in a correctional facility (the Harrisonburg Men's Diversion Center), one in a healthcare setting, and one in an educational setting. There have been 425 cases associated with outbreaks and 56 cases among healthcare workers.

Test results typically take around two to three days to process at this point in the pandemic.