Why even the best nursing homes see COVID-19 outbreaks


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes is not a result of inattentiveness, according to Indiana Center for Assisted Living President Zach Cattell.

“We’re doing the best we can,” said Cattell.

He explained even the nursing homes that follow everything by the book are seeing coronavirus outbreaks. They’re facing the challenges of asymptomatic people, a personal protective equipment shortage, and they are housing the most vulnerable population out there. 

“Not to say that there aren’t things that can be improved on, but really, we need to tell stories of the hard work that these dedicated professionals are doing everyday,” said Cattell.

Some of the criticism has come from those seeking COVID-19 related information from nursing homes. The state says it won’t release that info publicly.

“I will not,” said Gov. Eric Holcomb. “And the reason is because we respect that private business that nursing home that is operating under our regulations, and that’s where the relationship exists. And by the way, we have taken a few extra steps to make sure if that’s not, we’re going to intervene. And we are.”

Cattell said he’s seeking consistent guidelines on how to inform current and future residents and their families on COVID-19 data. 

“The last thing that we would want is disjointed state and federal communication guidelines that make it even more confusing for family members to get information from nursing facilities,” said Cattell.

He said efforts by long-term care facilities to build COVID-19 wings or buildings should be recognized not demonized, citing three main benefits.

“One, you’re able to appropriately isolate individuals that have the virus from folks that don’t. You’re also able to increase efficiencies in terms of use of PPE that’s available,” he explained. “And third, you’re also able to isolate the staff that work in that dedicated building or in that unit so that you are not cross contaminating individuals based on their work with COVID-only patients.”

Cattell said nursing homes have never been more challenged and could use public encouragement right now. 

“It’s really a passion. It’s about service, it’s about giving back, it’s not a job, it’s not a career, it’s a lifestyle,” said Cattell.

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(This story was originally published on April 27, 2020)

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