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Medical director confirms Accordius Health is location of Harrisonburg COVID-19 outbreak

South Dakota COVID-19 infections continue to rise. (MGN)
South Dakota COVID-19 infections continue to rise. (MGN)(KOTA)
Published: Apr. 14, 2020 at 4:22 PM EDT
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April 14:

On Tuesday, Dr. Jonathan Shenk, Medical Director for Accordius Health Harrisonburg, confirmed to WHSV the nursing home is where a COVID-19 outbreak is being investigated in the city.

Dr. Shenk said the first patient was tested this past Thursday and so far, four patients have tested positive.

He said 97 people were being tested as of Tuesday afternoon and 60 patients were showing COVID-19 like symptoms.

But Dr. Shenk said that does not mean these patients have the coronavirus; they may have influenza, which does have similar symptoms.

Every staff member at the facility is also being tested and Dr. Shenk said none have tested positive so far. Dr. Shenk said no deaths have been reported at the facility and his staff is working hard to keep patients healthy.

The Central Shenandoah Health District, which includes Harrisonburg,

late last week, but has not provided any information on where in the district, which spans Rockbridge to Rockingham counties, that death was located.

They've also not released information on the locations of any of the district's four identified outbreaks. With Dr. Shenk's confirmation, we know the one identified at long-term care center is at Accordius. But there have also been outbreaks at a healthcare setting, an education setting, and a congregate setting. No details on any of those have been provided.

Dr. Shenk wanted to inform the public that, while they handle the outbreak, they are not facing any shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the facility. But, like many clinics around the country, they are thankful for community members who have donated it.

Dr. Shenk said he believes more information will be available on Wednesday.

According to the doctor, the first patient at the facility was tested last Thursday, but it took a few days to receive results. With more and quicker testing made available through UVA Health, the facility became able to test anyone showing symptoms. They initially focused on people who were short of breath and coughing, but are now opening up testing to anyone in the facility.

WHSV reached out to the Virginia Department of Health and the Central Shenandoah Health District for more information on the outbreak on Sunday and Monday, but no information on the exact location of the outbreak or the number of cases was confirmed to us.

Health district officials had only released this past weekend that the district was working with a facility in Harrisonburg to collect COVID-19 specimens from symptomatic residents and send them to the state lab in Richmond, where they tested positive, and that staff were investigating potential sources of exposure to protect residents and staff.

However, two employees who did not want to be identified

the cases were at their workplace.

According to the most recent health inspection records in Virginia, Accordius Health Harrisonburg received 22 citations in their March 2019 inspection, receiving an overall rating of 1/5 stars, classified as "much below average."

A nursing home owned by Accordius in North Carolina is also facing an outbreak of COVID-19.

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April 13:

On Saturday, the Virginia Department of Health announced an investigation is underway for a COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care facility in Harrisonburg.

It's one of at least 97 total outbreaks identified across the state, 53 of which has been identified in long-term care facilities.

WHSV reached out to the Virginia Department of Health and the Central Shenandoah Health District for more information on the outbreak, but no information on the exact location of the outbreak or the number of cases was confirmed to us.

Health district officials had only released that the district was working with a facility in Harrisonburg to collect COVID-19 specimens from symptomatic residents and send them to the state lab in Richmond, where they tested positive, and that staff were investigating potential sources of exposure to protect residents and staff.

However, two employees who are working at one facility in Harrisonburg did not want to be identified, but told WHSV the cases were at their workplace.

"It is for sure ours," an employee said. "Five patients have already been confirmed for it."

WHSV made the editorial decision to not mention the facility's name, however, until a statement is released, confirming the information.

The employee said since March, her workplace had been checking temperatures for everyone entering the building until someone ran a fever last week.

"I'm certain that it started from one patient," the employee said. "He always goes to the hospital, he came back with a fever."

The employee said tests were given last Wednesday, but she was unaware of the positive cases until she was done with her shift on Friday.

"After I heard that coronavirus was actually there, I decided I'm not returning to work," the employee said. "They didn't inform us that it was there, they let me work four hours of my shift before they told me it was even in the building."

Another employee from the facility claimed VDH did not start testing for COVID-19 until they were notified several patients had died in just a few days. The employee said they believe those deaths were unrelated to COVID-19 and now staff are also being tested.

This employee said she was also concerned about the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)at the facility. They said they are given just one gown to use while assisting infected residents and healthy residents.

WHSV did reach out to the facility for a statement, but we have yet to hear back.

This is a developing story that WHSV will update as more information becomes available.

Last week, Gov. Northam announced the formation of a new Virginia task force dedicated to responding to COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities. In his briefing on Monday, Dr. Laurie Forlano, the deputy commissioner for public health who's heading the task force, said a new outbreak had been identified at a long-term care center over the weekend, where the local health district had worked with them to respond to the situation.

She did not identify the location of the outbreak, but said UVA had offered testing kits to test residents in the case of that outbreak.