Salt Lake City nursing home will only take COVID-19 patients after six residents, two staffers got the virus and one died

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Pine Creek Rehabilitation and Nursing facility, April 4, 2020.

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The Utah Department of Health has turned a Salt Lake City nursing home into a dedicated COVID-19 care facility.

The health department took over the 34-bed facility after six residents and two workers at the facility tested positive for the highly contagious coronavirus. The first patient to be hospitalized was admitted March 27. One resident, a woman over the age of 85, died Thursday from COVID-19. Three residents are hospitalized with the virus.

According to a health department news release, all remaining residents are isolated in their rooms. The 34-bed nursing home will become a COVID-19 only facility for patients who no longer require hospital-level care. Residents who test negative for the virus are being moved to another facility.

The facility is following measures recommended by the health department, according to the release. That includes “notification of possibly exposed hospice workers and facility staff to monitor closely for symptoms. If symptoms develop, they are to remain excluded from work and to immediately report symptoms to public health for testing as needed.”

The Utah Department of Health is declining to name the nursing home in which the woman lived. A spokesperson said it is unknown how she contracted the virus. But the subsequent spread represented the first known instance of COVID-19 transmission within an elder-care community in the state, state health officials said.

They had previously announced the March 29 coronavirus death of a woman in Weber County long-term care center, but said it was not clear how that woman contracted the virus. That woman’s roommate and two employees of the Washington Terrace center were tested for coronavirus and received negative results.

While the Department of Health hasn’t released the name of the affected nursing home, Pine Creek Rehabilitation and Nursing, a 34-bed facility at 806 W. 700 South, has an outbreak. Its staff declined multiple requests for confirmation Saturday, but posted to Facebook saying that an outbreak had occurred, that it was temporarily transitioning to a coronavirus-only facility and that all residents without the virus would move elsewhere.

“Like thousands of other locations throughout the world, despite having implemented all infection control recommended by the leading agencies, the virus has managed to spread in our facility,” the post read.

It posted a message on its Facebook page Wednesday notifying residents and their families that a resident and an employee tested positive for COVID-19 on March 28. The resident was tested after being sent to the hospital on March 25 for an unrelated treatment. According to the post, the employee, “whose duties don’t include direct patient care,” notified the staff of a positive test that night and quarantined at home.

Pine Creek’s posts both closed with: “We will continue to follow all the guidance of the agencies involved to protect and care for your loved ones.”

Last year, Salt Lake City’s Pine Creek Rehabilitation and Nursing was one of five Utah facilities identified in a U.S. Senate report as either designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as a Special Focus Facility, or SFF, or as a candidate for that designation. SFF denotes facilities that “substantially fail” to meet standards of required care.

Nursing homes around the country have been a breeding ground for the coronavirus. COVID-19 caught fire in an elder-care residence in Washington, leading to the first major outbreak in the United States and 40 deaths. In one Maryland nursing home, 77 of the 95 residents contracted the virus, according to a report by the Washington Post. In Colorado, nursing home residents account for nearly a third of all COVID-19-related deaths.

It had been three days since the last deaths caused by COVID-19 in Utah. Two people died on Wednesday because of the virus. Until now, none were over age 85.

More deaths are likely in store, however, as diagnosed cases continue to grow. The most recent numbers released by the state health department show a spike in COVID-19 cases in Utah County over the past two days. The only county along the Wasatch Front without a stay-at-home order, it now has 186 cases and 12 hospitalizations. That is a 77 % increase from the 105 cases, and 11 hospitalizations, reported Thursday.

Salt Lake County saw the most cases, adding 109 more and eight new hospitalizations to its tally. That was an increase of 36.5% over Thursday for a total of 650 cases. Davis County saw a 33% increase in cases over that two-day span for a total of 137.

Summit County, meanwhile, the first in the state to issue a stay-at-home order, saw a jump of 12% with eight more cases, bringing its total to 230.

Statewide, Utah has 1,428 coronavirus cases, eight deaths and 117 hospitalizations. The percent of positive cases (roughly 5% of those tested) and the rate of hospitalizations (8%) have not changed in statistically significant ways.

Reporters Paighten Harkins and Lee Davidson contributed to this story.