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Isolated and Vulnerable in Nursing Homes: Professor Nina Kohn Speaks to The Denver Post

Posted on Tuesday 12/8/2020
Nina Kohn

False-negative tests let COVID-19 into a rural Colorado hospital’s long-term care unit

(The Denver Post | Dec. 5, 2020) On an ordinary day in mid-November, someone woke up feeling fine and went to work at a small-town nursing home on Colorado’s Eastern Plains, as usual.

Two weeks later, all but four of the home’s residents had COVID-19.

Carrie Owens, administrator of Lincoln Community Hospital’s long-term care unit, said she doesn’t know which staff member carried the virus in without showing symptoms. Everyone came up negative on the rapid tests they took in the week before the first resident started feeling unwell, and they hadn’t allowed any visitors ...

... Nina Kohn, a professor specializing in elder law at Syracuse University, said some outbreaks could be avoided if nursing homes had consistent, full-time staff who work with only a few residents. 

Many caregivers work part-time in multiple facilities, so they can spread the virus widely before realizing they’re sick, she said. Lincoln Community Hospital’s nursing home doesn’t allow staff to work in multiple facilities.

The current set-up in most nursing homes has left residents isolated from those they need most — their families — but still vulnerable to catching the virus from rotating staff, Kohn said.

“Certainly nursing homes are very susceptible to COVID-19, but I don’t think we should see this as inevitable,” she said ...

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