Sunnyside Retirement Community confirms 5 new COVID-19 cases

Photo from WHSV's Air3 drone
Photo from WHSV's Air3 drone(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 5:16 PM EDT
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A Rockingham County retirement community has confirmed that multiple employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days.

Sunnyside Communities, a non-profit Life Plan Community just outside Harrisonburg, announced on Wednesday evening that they had been notified of five confirmed COVID-19 cases in one of their facilities.

, the facility had reported two positive cases in employees, but at that time, there were no cases detected amid residents of the continuing care community.

However, on Tuesday afternoon, administrators say they were notified that a resident and an employee had tested positive. Then, on Wednesday, Sunnyside staff were notified that another member of their health care staff and two more residents had tested positive as well.

Each of the people with positive cases confirmed this week was connected to the Pannill Health Care Center on the Sunnyside campus.

Until further notice, the Pannill Health Care Center is in full isolation with a no-visitation policy. Sunnyside says they have restricted visitation since mid-March on the health care side, "except under special circumstances that are within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid guidelines."

Administrators say families and other immediate contacts of health care residents were also notified.

Staff at Sunnyside say they're working closely with the Virginia Department of Health as health officials work to trace any potential contacts of people with confirmed cases who may have been exposed to the virus.

As that process continues, Sunnyside is following VDH and CDC recommendations.

With multiple positive tests, the health department recommended that Sunnyside conduct point prevalence testing, which involves testing everyone at a facility in a short time to capture a snapshot of anyone with positive cases, regardless of symptoms, and help prevent potential future spread. It's one of the most effective ways to find cases in asymptomatic individuals.

Starting immediately, Sunnyside says tests will be administered to all residents and staff in both health care and assisted living.

According to Sunnyside's chief marketing officer, they have tested more than 50 staff members and "a number of residents" as of the evening of June 3.

An initial press release from Sunnyside said all staff at the Pannill Health Care Center were not returning to work until test results came back negative, but administrators later clarified to WHSV that staff who have notified them that they are exhibiting symptoms and who are waiting to be tested or waiting for their rest results are not working until they get a negative result.

The majority of staff in the health care side of the facility have been tested, and administrators say those not exhibiting symptoms are still working.

They cited the complicated timing of diagnostic testing, because of the prevalence of false negative results if someone does not have active viruses in their system at the time of testing.

“At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the residents and Sunnyside employees who have tested positive, as well as the staff and residents awaiting their test results,” said Josh Lyons, president & CEO of Sunnyside Communities. “The health and well-being of our residents and staff is our top priority, and we are incredibly appreciative of the support and guidance we have received from the Virginia Department of Health.”

Sunnyside is home to nearly 500 residents in independent, assisted, memory support, and healthcare living.

The disease leads to especially severe symptoms for elderly patients and

at long-term care facilities, retirement communities, and nursing homes.

Also on Wednesday, elsewhere in the area, the

, as had two construction workers working through a contract at the facility.

, Rockingham County has had 548 positive cases of COVID-19, and the city of Harrisonburg has had 809. The Central Shenandoah Health District has responded to 15 total outbreaks, including 6 in long-term care facilities, with 502 total outbreak-associated cases.