Nurse staff

Quiet Oaks staff administered rounds of coronavirus testing to residents. (Photo/Terry Cook)

In a span of 11 days, Quiet Oaks Health Care Center conducted three separate rounds of COVID-19 tests — two nasal swab tests and an antibody test — on all of its residents with a private lab, operations manager Terry Cook said. According to the April 17 Department of Community Health report, Quiet Oaks has over 50 residents.

On April 10, Quiet Oaks reported its first four confirmed COVID-19 cases. That number has since risen to 28 cases and two deaths as of April 23, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.

The facility in Crawford, a city of around 800 about 14 miles from downtown Athens, conducted the tests to get ahead of the outbreak in their facility, Cook said.

In nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country, COVID-19 has spread rapidly, with grim results in some cases. As of April 23, more than 11,000 residents and nursing home and long-term care staff have died due to COVID-19 nationwide, almost a fifth of total deaths.

In Georgia, about 3,500 residents and staff of long-term care facilities have reported cases of COVID-19 as of April 23, which is up by 1,000 cases as reported on April 17. Tracking for this data was first reported on April 10 by Gov. Brian Kemp’s office before being updated by the Department of Community Health on April 17.

As of April 23, 59 cases have been reported in facilities across Athens-Clarke County and the five counties that border it — Oglethorpe, Jackson, Oconee, Barrow and Madison. Within this six-county area, there have been 14 deaths, 11 which are from PruittHealth-Grandview in Athens and one from Quiet Oaks. The deaths at PruittHealth-Grandview were not made public, until a whistleblower alerted WSB-TV.

Extreme measures required

The Quiet Oaks numbers reported by the DCH are the results of nasal swab tests the facility made on March 31 and April 10 by contracting with a private lab. The tests were conducted after one resident tested positive for COVID-19 during an unrelated visit to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, Cook said.

As of April 23, Georgia has about 288 facilities with outbreaks, 6 of which are located in the Athens area.

Since its outbreak, Quiet Oaks has taken multiple measures to protect its residents, Cook said. He said they have contracted a private company to help disinfect the facility. The Georgia National Guard is scheduled to come in on a weekly basis to disinfect and sanitize the facility.

“They were very good about getting ahead of it [the virus], early on,” said Tracy Norman, an Oglethorpe County resident who has at least three relatives at Quiet Oaks.

Cook said Quiet Oaks also purchased an ultraviolet disinfection lamp. The lamp, which cost about $30,000, has the ability to kill biological material in a room, Cook said. Residents are confined to their rooms and separated from residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, some of whom have returned from the hospital after responding to treatment, Cook said. Staff members wear protective gear.

“Our main thing is to support our patients and support our staff and provide as much information to the families as we can keep them informed on a daily basis,” Cook said.

Given the recent outbreaks in long-term care facilities, Whispering Pines Personal Care Home in Athens no longer allows residents to leave their rooms. St. Gabriel in Oconee County has ended communal dining and only allows residents to go outside if they each have personal masks.

Representatives from Whispering Pines and St. Gabriel said they would only begin testing if a person at the facility demonstrated symptoms of COVID-19 or they interacted with someone with the virus, as per DPH and Oconee County Health Department guidelines, respectively.

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