Editor’s Note: Typically, the News-Graphic does not use anonymous sources. However, this article contains multiple anonymous sources because they either fear for their family member or fear losing their job. We felt the information was of such importance that a decision was made to withhold names and identities. When anonymous information was used, it was verified by multiple sources.
The death toll from the Dover Manor COVID-19 outbreak reached four this weekend. The deaths occurred within four days of each other.
Two women, ages 88 and 93, are the latest victims of a coronavirus outbreak that has now infected 67 people at the long-term facility, according to numbers provided by the WEDCO Public Health District. Of the 67 confirmed cases, 25 are staff members and 40 residents, WEDCO states.
Dover Manor officials have said there are much fewer confirmed cases at the long-term care facility.
“Following CDC Guidance, we currently have 13 residents that are positive with COVID-19,” said Pat Wise of Dover Manor on Thursday. The News-Graphic has reached out to Dover Manor via email with additional questions, but at press time we have not received a response.
Even so, the number of deaths so quickly indicates a problem inside the facility, said health officials.
“To have this many deaths so quickly indicates there is a gap in the facility’s infectious disease protocols,” said Dr. Crystal Miller, WEDCO public health director. “This is exactly why we jumped on this so quickly and established protocols. We know how quickly this virus can spread.”
Early on, WEDCO began working with long-term care facilities to develop protocols and policies, including conference calls and providing resources. The nature of a long-term care facility, including patients housed close together with underlying health conditions and advanced age, made the facilities especially vulnerable. Multiple sources, including several current and former employees have said the facility was slow to test staff and residents, and when tests were administered the virus was already spreading.
The virus has spread to such a point, patients must be brought outside to emergency personnel who are cautioned against entering the building by the public health department.
“In an emergency, obviously we’ll go in, but in most cases we are asking the patients to be brought to the door,” said Scott County EMS director Chris Runyon.
Miller said it was her decision to caution first responders.
“We have to protect our first responders,” said Miller. “We can’t afford to lose our first responders. It takes two hours just to disinfect their trucks.”
Chelsea Taylor works in the dietary area of Dover Manor. She started there about two months ago, and realizes she may not have a job once this article is published. Even so, she said she has to come forward.
“The families have no idea what is going on,” she said. “The managers tell them one thing, but something else is going on. I’m concerned for the residents.”
Although Dover Manor officials say there are only 13 residents confirmed with COVID-19, Taylor said there are 28 — a number much closer to WEDCO’s statistics.
“And they are all spread out through the facility,” Taylor said of the residents who have tested positive. “This weekend two staff members who had tested positive for COVID returned after one week off. They were still testing positive, but they had them return.
“One of my co-workers got sick this weekend and began to throw up. She went home, but an hour later they called her and told her she had to return.”
Taylor confirmed what several other former and current Dover Manor employees who had asked to remain anonymous said about staffing and that at night there is sometimes one nurse for an entire wing, if not the entire building.
“We’re so understaffed and overworked,” Taylor said. “There are nights when there is one CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) who has the whole building by themself. There is no way we have 109 employees.”
Nurses are quitting because of the conditions and the fear they may take COVID-19 back to their families, Taylor said.
“I have an eight-month-old daughter,” she said. “I’m not sure how long I want to stay there.”
Taylor said she is afraid for some of the COVID-19 patients.
“They don’t look too good,” she said. “I’m afraid some of them aren’t going to make it.”
Following an article in the Friday edition of the News-Graphic, numerous members of residents’ families, as well as current and former employees contacted the newspaper with concerns.
Every anonymous source that contacted the News-Graphic disputed Dover Manor’s claims construction on the building was completed in February, with several saying construction was only recently completed. Photos of work being done inside Dover Manor were placed on its Facebook page and showed construction workers without masks. The photos were removed last week from its Facebook page following a WKYT report.
Another frequent concern was a lack of staffing within the facility. Wise said Dover Manor has 109 employees, but multiple family members complained that meals are frequently late, and residents are not receiving appropriate care because of a nurse shortage. The facility has two wings with about 40 residents in each wing, and several sources said there is sometimes just one nurse at night per wing.
Several anonymous sources said safety protocols such as wearing masks, washing hands and even social distancing were often not observed within the facility. One resident family member said medicine was provided bare-handed by an attendant immediately following a smoke break.
“Our staff wear Personal Protective Equipment including gowns, face shields, gloves, and additional clothing protectors that are utilized for each and every COVID-19 positive resident,” Wise said. “The infection Control Team closely analyzes the possible exposure for each resident and staff and additionally test them for the COVID-19 virus while keeping residents that have been exposed in a quarantined area.”
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.