Utah discloses which long-term care facilities have coronavirus cases

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) A sign at the Ridge Foothill retirement community reads, "We love health care workers" and, "We will survive COVID-19," on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

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The Utah Department of Health published data for the first time Thursday that shows some of the nursing homes, senior care centers and similar facilities with COVID-19 cases.

The department stopped short of providing complete case counts for each facility. Instead, it released the names of nine centers that have had active cases within the past 14 days. Of those, six have five or more active cases.

Facilities with five or more active cases:

• Highland Cove, assisted living, Millcreek.

• Woodland Park, skilled nursing, Millcreek.

• Medallion Manor, intermediate care and intellectual disabilities, Provo.

• The Ridge Foothill Senior Living, assisted living, Salt Lake City.

• Aspen Ridge West, skilled nursing, Murray.

• Heritage Park, skilled nursing, Roy.

Facilities with fewer than five active cases:

• St. Joseph Villa, mixed facility, Salt Lake City.

• Aspen Ridge of Utah Valley, skilled nursing, Orem.

• Parkway Health & Rehab, mixed facility, Payson.

The health department data shows there have been 180 residents and 150 staffers infected at long-term care facilities. About 97 facilities have been “impacted," the data shows, out of more than 300 licensed care facilities in the state.

Of those, 77 have “resolved” any outbreaks.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) A sign at t\The Ridge Foothill retirement community reads, "We will survive COVID-19," on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

The health department’s online dashboard also says there have been 30 resident deaths. Department spokeswoman Charla Haley clarified Thursday that is the number of coronavirus deaths attributed to facilities the department licenses.

According to a Salt Lake Tribune tally based on the department’s daily briefings, 36 of the state’s 75 coronavirus deaths were associated with long-term care facilities. Haley said those additional six deaths were at independent living communities — typically for senior citizens — that do not require a license from the health department.

Some of the facilities published by the department have already disclosed aspects of their outbreaks. At least nine residents of Highland Cove Retirement Community have died. The Ridge Foothill Senior Living published an update on its website this week saying six residents there have died.

The latest data was published about 10 weeks into Utah’s outbreak and a month after The Tribune filed a public records request seeking information about which long-term care facilities had reported COVID-19 cases. While some states have been forthcoming about the extent of coronavirus infections in their care centers, others disclosed the information only after journalists or advocacy groups sued or threatened to do so. There are states that refuse to provide any such numbers.

Danny Harris, the advocacy director of AARP Utah, applauded the state’s improved transparency, but he asked that the health department release more information about the facilities with coronavirus cases.

“By making this information publicly available,” Harris said in a statement, “the residents, staff and families of these facilities can make better, informed decisions about their health and the care of their loved ones.”

Harris also repeated an earlier call by AARP Utah to have all residents in the state’s long-term care facilities tested for COVID-19.

The health department this week said it would begin testing workers at all long-term care facilities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus into those centers. The White House would like to see all residents in these facilities tested as well, but Utah has said it has no plans — at this point — to do so.

One facility listed as having five or more active coronavirus cases is Medallion Manor in Provo. It is a care center for people with developmental disabilities. One death has been associated with it, said Allie Spangler, director of membership for the Utah Health Care Association.

Facilities like Medallion Manor can have a harder time mitigating outbreaks. Unlike, for example, nursing homes, the residents typically have full mobility and may not grasp the implications of the pandemic.

“They don’t understand and can’t really stay in their rooms and isolate,” Spangler said, “whereas, in a nursing facility, it’s easier to do that.”

Medallion Manor has worked with the health department on ways to mitigate its outbreak, Spangler said, and transferred some residents to other facilities when it was able to do so. Spangler said Medallion Manor is licensed for 45 beds, though she was unsure how many residents are at the facility now.

The Utah Health Care Association represents long-term care facilities. Spangler said the organization has been working with the state to get staff tested. When that’s completed, she said, there will be a discussion of testing all residents, too.

While much of Utah will move Saturday to a “yellow,” or low risk, pandemic status, Spangler said care facilities will continue as they have been for the past two months — no family visits, closed dining rooms and common areas, staffers wearing protective equipment.

Under the “yellow” level, care center employees may be more exposed to COVID-19 when they aren’t at work, Spangler said, and that’s why screening staffers for symptoms will be important.

An outbreak “can happen to a five-star facility,” Spangler said. “This can happen to anybody. The virus does not play favorites.”

Todd Bramall, administrator at Parkway Health & Rehab in Payson, said three residents there tested positive for the coronavirus. They were moved to other facilities, he said.

“We are following the state guidelines as far as prevention,” Bramall said Thursday, “and currently we don’t have any [positive residents] in the building. We are continuing to test per state guidelines and waiting for our second round of testing results.”

Two facilities on the list, Aspen Ridge West, in Murray, and Aspen Ridge of Utah Valley, in Orem, are owned by Advanced Health Care. The company’s CEO, Joe Walker, said Thursday there have been no coronavirus deaths at those facilities, and they currently have no COVID-19 positive residents.

Positive cases have been transferred to facilities accepting only such residents, Walker said. Still, his care centers will continue their prevention efforts.

“I would anticipate that we are going to be the very last to loosen up,” Walker said, “and I would hope that’s the case.”