Nursing homes and assisted living centers in Ohio continue to be the focus of concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, given the fact older residents are much more at risk if they contract the virus.
The Ohio Department of Health reported Wednesday on its website that 1,966 deaths from COVID-19 in congregate care centers have been reported, or about 75 percent of all of the state's 3,442 deaths.
That portion of the state's website is updated weekly on Wednesdays.
Richland, Crawford and Ashland counties have all experienced "outbreaks" in at least one such congregate care center since the coronavirus reached Ohio in March.
According to the ODH, there have been 207 total positive COVID-19 tests among residents and staff in the facilities, including 133 in Crawford County, 50 in Richland County and 24 in Ashland County.
With 792 total positive tests in the three counties, that means 26 percent of the cases have originated in such facilities.
But 12 of the 19 COVID-19 deaths among the three north central Ohio counties, or about 63 percent, have occurred with patients contracting the virus while in nursing homes or assisted living centers.
Wedgewood Estates in Mansfield is currently grappling with the issue, having experienced more than a dozen positive cases among residents and staff in the last two weeks, according to numbers from the Ohio Dept. of Health website.
ODH reports 10 residents and 11 staff members at Wedgewood have tested positive, with 15 of those cases occurring since July 17.
The facility currently has one active case, according to Sarah Humphrey, Richland Public Health commissioner.
Humphrey said local health officials traced the origin of the outbreak to a resident, who was asymptomatic, testing positive prior to a medical procedure. How that resident became infected with coronavirus is undetermined, she said.
Lori Casto, community relations coordinator at Wedgewood said Friday the resident was surprised to learn she had the virus, but the staff had responded well to the outbreak.
"We have had our spike and we are doing well know," she said, adding the virus had created difficult situations for congregate care settings. "It's been four months of scrutiny, of doing all we possibly can to keep residents safe. I have to keep these residents safe. That's my job."
Wedgewood is known for socialization and activities for its residents, including invitations to the community to attend events at the facility.
"All those things we're used to doing to help our residents thrive ... those don't exist now (during the pandemic)," Casto said.
Though visitations to nursing homes and assisted living centers have resumed under current state guidelines, Humphrey recommended limited visits from family and friends. Anyone with any COVID-19 symptoms should avoid visiting the sites at all, she said.
"Visit outside, when possible, wash hands frequently and wear facial coverings, along with social distancing," Humphrey recommended.
Wedgewood is not the only congregate-care center in Richland County to have experienced outbreaks, according to the ODH. The Liberty Nursing Center has had 26 positive tests, including 21 residents. It has one current case now involving a staff member.
No other facility in the county has current cases, though the Crestwood Care Center (staff), Mifflin Care Center (resident) and Oak Grove Manor (staff) have all reported one positive test since the pandemic began, according to the ODH website.
In Crawford County, the largest outbreak occurred in Normandy Care with 73 residents and 25 staff members testing positive. It currently has no active cases, however.
Altercare Bucyrus has recorded 16 residents with positive tests and 13 among staff. One case involving a resident is still current, the ODH website reported.
Heartland of Bucyrus has no current cases, though six residents have tested positive since COVID-19 began.
Five facilities in Ashland County have reported positive tests.
McMullen Assisted Care has had 15 residents and five staff members contract the virus, with cases involving three residents still current.
The Good Shepherd Skilled Nursing and Rehab facility has had one resident test positive, a case that is still current.
Brethren Care Village (assisted living) has had one staff member test positive, as has Brethren Care Village (nursing home). The cases are not active.
Kingston of Ashland has reported one resident testing positive, though it also is not active.