Utah nursing home linked to COVID-19 outbreak can now take residents who recovered from virus

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) The Pine Creek Rehabilitation and Nursing facility on April 4, 2020.

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Pine Creek Rehabilitation and Nursing, which was the first long-term care facility in Utah to be limited to residents who tested positive for the coronavirus, has been given a clean bill of health.

All residents and staffers have tested negative for the virus multiple times, said Derek White, senior vice president at Cascades Healthcare, which operates Pine Creek. He said the Salt Lake City center, 876 W. 700 South, received approval Monday from the Utah Department of Health to accept new residents.

Those new residents will be people who have already recovered from COVID-19, White said. That includes patients who have been weathering the virus and recuperating at City Creek Post Acute. That Salt Lake City care facility, 165 S. 1000 East, has been accepting COVID-19 patients who have been discharged from the hospital and needed rehabilitation or skilled nursing.

White said other nursing homes may be “skittish” about accepting people who have recovered from COVID-19, but the residents at Pine Creek are assumed to have immunity.

“This is really unprecedented,” White said. He was unaware of another long-term care facility in the country that had all COVID-19 patients and has transitioned into a normal status.

Long-term care facilities have been hot spots for the coronavirus. In Utah, as of Tuesday, 35 of the state’s 73 COVID-19 deaths were associated with such centers, according to the state health department.

On Monday, the department announced plans to test staffers at all of Utah’s long-term care facilities. The state has no plan, at this time, to test all residents at those centers, although the White House has recommended that states do that within the next two weeks.

Pine Creek became a COVID-19-only facility April 4 after six residents and two workers there tested positive for the virus. Eventually, the numbers grew to 18 residents and 11 staffers. Residents who tested negative for the virus were moved to other facilities.

(Photo courtesy Deanna Avis) Janice Blodgett in this undated photo. Blodgett died April 2, 2020, of the coronavirus, according to her family. She was 85.

Pine Creek has said two of its residents died from COVID-19. One of them was 85-year-old Janice Blodgett, according to her family.

“When you have two who die, it tempers everything,” White said. "Our feelings about that are still pretty tough.”

Some staffers were unable to remain at Pine Creek, which has 34 beds, due to their own health concerns. Those who kept working tried to care for residents confined to their rooms.

The dining hall was closed. Group activities were canceled. In addition to standard care, workers in masks and gloves had to ensure, for instance, that the residents’ televisions and DVD players were working so everyone stayed entertained.

White said Pine Creek is now fully staffed. Some employees are assigned to clean full time, he said. Recently, the facility held a barbecue for residents and allowed them to go outside while a crew inside did a deeper clean.