Nursing home keeping eye on COVID outbreak

Pine Haven Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Philmont has reported a small cluster of COVID cases.

PHILMONT — Pine Haven Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Philmont is monitoring a small outbreak of COVID cases, officials said Monday.

The Columbia County Department of Health announced the positive cases at the facility Friday.

“Nine residents and seven staff have tested positive, and all of them are vaccinated,” Pine Haven spokesman Geoff Thompson said. “This week they will be getting their booster shots as well. A pharmacy is coming in to do that.”

Two of the residents are in the hospital and six staff members are out because of their protocols, which specify how long after testing positive a staff member needs to stay out of the facility.

“The symptoms seem to be less severe than in the past, now that people are vaccinated it’s kind of like a bad cold,” Thompson said. “Some are a little worse than others but nobody’s died or anything like that.”

The facility believes the virus came in through a visitation, Thompson said. The suspicion is a visitor brought it in a few days before Thanksgiving because it started shortly after that.

Staff members and residents are all tested weekly, Thompson said. To stop the potential spread of the virus residents who do not have a private room are separated from others.

“The staff has to stay out for a certain period of time after they are tested, and they have to test negatively,” Thompson said. “It’s significant that they cannot come back until after they are testing negatively.”

State, federal and county regulations come into play when staff members are allowed to return to the facility, Thompson said.

“There’s much more of a structure to the way the situation is handled now than it had been in 2020, when this whole thing first started, and nobody knew what to do,” Thompson said. “Now there’s a whole protocol. Hopefully, we’ve seen the worst of this little round now.”

Prior to this outbreak it had been several months since the facility had a positive COVID-19 case, Thompson said.

“Obviously, COVID is still around,” Thompson said. “The vaccines really do appear to be having a positive effect, but obviously they don’t ensure that if you’re exposed to it that you don’t get it because we’re having vaccinated people get it.”

The Columbia County Department of Health announced there had been seven positive residents and two staff members in a press release Friday afternoon.

“What they did, and what all the nursing homes are doing, is is that anyone who ends up positive they are concentrated in a certain area,” Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb said. “So far so good. We haven’t had any additional positives over there.”

The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Barnwell had two positive cases recently Mabb said.

Columbia County as a whole has recently been experiencing an increase in the numbers of positive cases it is seeing, Mabb said. It is likely because of the recent Thanksgiving holiday when many people get together for gatherings.

“We had 57 on Saturday, which is a big number for us,” Mabb said. “And we had 52 today, which actually encompasses Sunday and today. I think this is Thanksgiving, we’re near the end now of the typical 11-day run. We may see a slight dip after, but on the other hand we also could see it just continuing because the positives go home to family and it spreads in families.”

Columbia County residents take COVID seriously, Mabb said. He has seen many county residents wearing masks in stores as positive cases have increased.

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