Dept. of Health creates “strike teams” to contain coronavirus at nursing homes

RHODE ISLAND (WLNE) – The Department of Health is creating new measures to better protect the state’s vulnerable population in nursing home.

On Friday, 13 additional coronavirus related deaths were announced, 10 of which came from congregate settings. Four of the latest deaths came from Orchard View Manor in East Providence. There are now 24 deaths at this nursing home facility.

“I’m a nervous wreck,” said Melissa Calcione. Her 79-year-old father is a resident at Orchard View Manor. He has dementia and Alzheimer’s and has also tested positive for the coronavirus.

“He’s staying steady. He has a cough. He doesn’t have a temperature, but he does need oxygen,” said Calcione.

To try and protect nursing home residents like Calcione’s father, the state is creating “strike teams” that will immediately respond to nursing homes when the virus breaks out.

The strike team will provide on-site testing to quickly identify and isolate sick staff and residents. The team will also bring in more PPE and help with quarantine and isolation protocols.

The state also partnered with the CVS drive-thru testing site at Twin River to create a fast lane for nursing home staff.

“Currently there are 200 dedicated spots per day specifically for the healthcare workers and staff who are working at congregate care settings,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director of the Department of Health.

Calcione welcomes the new efforts, but says it may be too late for many.

“If she could have done this a couple of weeks ago it could have saved so many lives,” said Calcione.

She appreciates the new efforts to protect the nursing home staff.

“They’re our guardian angles, they’re our lifeline right now. If they’re not healthy and they can’t take care of our loved ones then I don’t know what will happen,” said Calcione.

The Department of Health is also beginning to test nursing home staff and residents every seven to 10 days to monitor the exposure level and keep those who are testing positive away from those who are still healthy.

“This will involve delivering swabs to nursing homes and picking up samples the next day, as well as having a mobile testing unit available for places where there are clusters of cases,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott.

Categories: Coronavirus, Rhode Island