GALION -- A COVID-19 outbreak than began last month has continued to sweep through Mill Creek Nursing & Rehab.
There were 39 positive COVID-19 cases being treated in the facility as of this week, according to the facility’s website.
Mill Creek first became aware that a resident was COVID-positive after the individual was admitted to the hospital for unrelated symptoms around Oct. 21, according to Health Commissioner Trish Factor of the Galion City Health Department.
Factor said Monday that a total of 50 residents and 38 staff members have tested positive since the outbreak began. Multiple staff contacts outside the facility have also tested positive.
She also noted there have been 12 residents hospitalized after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Seven residents have died since the outbreak began, but the process of verifying COVID-19’s role in their deaths is ongoing.
“One has COVID listed as the Primary Cause, two do not have COVID listed; we are awaiting the death certificates on the other four to verify listed causes,” Factor wrote in an email.
“This was a rapid outbreak and the facility has done their best to contact and manage it,” she added.
Claire Wukelich, risk manager at Mill Creek, stated last month that the facility typically houses between 50 and 60 people.
Factor reported in an email that "most of" the residents at Mill Creek have contracted COVID-19 as a result of the outbreak.
"The facility would be able to provide you more details as their census (resident population) changes frequently," she wrote.
Neither Mill Creek nor its parent organization, Foundations Health Solutions, responded to additional requests for comment, but a statement on Mill Creek's website said staff and residents are regularly screened for symptoms and that the facility has a “rigorous cleaning and disinfecting process.”
The outbreak mirrors a growing trend across the county, and particularly the Midwest, of nursing home outbreaks in areas with significant community spread.
A report from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), which represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country.
"Outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes are often a signal of the communities into which the virus is spreading," said R. Tamara Konetzka, professor of health services research at the University of Chicago.
The report also said asymptomatic spread and a lack of available tests has contributed to quick, sometimes uncontrollable spread in congregate living facilities.
Another key finding was that there was no correlation between a facility's quality rating and the likelihood of a COVID-19 outbreak. The report found that residents of long term care facilities account for only eight percent of the nation’s cases, yet 40 percent of its deaths.
While case numbers in Crawford County are trending down, the spread of COVID-19 is still considered “high incidence” by the Ohio Department of Health due to its case rate per capita.
With 164 cases among the county’s 41,494 residents in the past two weeks, Crawford County’s new case rate for the past two weeks is almost eight times higher than the state’s minimum high incidence threshold of 50 cases per 100,000 people.
Non-congregate cases have dropped considerably over the last month, going from 75 percent of new cases to 5.56 percent in three weeks.
“These types of outbreaks are not just occurring in the facilities, the staff that work there live within the communities and what happens within the community affects those staff and can in turn affect the residents of the facilities," Factor said. "We all need to take care of each other.”