Hard hit West Virginia nursing home reporting 28 virus cases

Carl Shrader, medical director for the Sundale nursing home in Morgantown, said 16 residents and four staffers have tested have tested positive for the coronavirus in Morgantown, W.Va., Wednesday March 25, 2020. The nursing home with at least 20 coronavirus cases has become "ground zero" for the state's growing virus caseload. (Ron Rittenhouse/Dominion Post via AP)
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia nursing home described as the epicenter of the state's coronavirus caseload now has 28 positive cases as containment measures continue, officials said Thursday.

Sundale nursing home medical director Carl Shrader said 20 residents and eight staffers at the Morgantown facility have the virus, with four tests pending after an aggressive effort to screen nearly everyone at the center.

“What's on all our minds is containing it where we have it and not letting it rage on if possible,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Shrader has described Sundale as “ ground zero ” for the virus in West Virginia. State officials reported at least 51 positive cases as of Wednesday night, with the largest number in Monongalia County where the nursing home is located.

Testing remains limited, meaning most people now spreading the highly contagious virus may not know they have been infected, and state health officials have admitted their count lags behind the actual total as results pour in from counties around the state. West Virginia has yet to report a death from the coronavirus.

Isolation measures are in place throughout the nursing home, with the facility receiving donations of testing equipment and safety gear since the first case emerged Sunday. The state's National Guard is also assisting in the effort.

“I think we're all feeling tired. It's been a process, we've had very long days but everyone's staying positive and realizes this is something we have to accomplish,” Shrader said, adding that he and others have been fielding calls from worried family members who have been barred from visiting the facility.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice has repeatedly warned of the virus’s potential damage in a state where about 20% of the population is 65 or older and a high percentage of people have existing health problems. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that West Virginia has the nation’s highest percentage of adults at risk of developing serious illnesses from the virus.

A statewide stay-home order that directed all nonessential businesses to close went into effect Tuesday night, intensifying previous moves by Justice, who has ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, casinos, gyms, health clubs, recreation centers, barbershops, nail salons and hair salons.

Separately, Kanawha County health officials said a resident of the Brookdale Charleston Gardens assisted living center tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday morning. Officials said they will test the facility’s roughly 81 other residents.

The governor was scheduled to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, and the overwhelming majority of people recover. But severe cases can need respirators to survive, and with infections spreading exponentially, hospitals across the country are either bracing for a coming wave of patients, or already struggling to keep up.