Sadly, 11 residents and eight staff members at the Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Barnwell tested positive for the coronavirus last week, the Columbia County Department of Health said Monday. It is the single-largest outbreak in the Twin Counties since late winter.

And it appears, from the dates of onset, it was brought in by a resident, not a staff member, county Health Department Director Jack Mabb said Monday. Fortunately, no COVID-related deaths have been reported in this latest outbreak.

Have we learned anything from the tragic deaths of nursing home residents at the height of the pandemic?

For one thing, the big difference between then and now is vaccinations. Most of the residents and staff members at Barnwell have been vaccinated.

For another, Barnwell seems to have an idea of how to fight or at least contain the virus. Barnwell came up with a solution that is both unique and takes a common-sense approach: The facility created a special unit for new residents.

New residents go to that unit, which is similar to a quarantine section, but is not exactly the same. The goal is to contain an outbreak to that unit and prevent it from breaking out and spreading through the rest of the facility.

Barnwell experienced a serious COVID outbreak in the late spring of 2020. In May 2020, the Columbia County Department of Health reported the facility had the largest COVID outbreak in the region with 121 of the facility’s residents testing positive. The state Department of Health criticized Barnwell for its handling of the COVID crisis, citing issues with how the facility was reporting COVID-related deaths. The facility also came under fire after it had transferred 37 residents to other facilities last year and, in some instances, did not inform family members.

The county said Barnwell is working with the Department of Health to keep officials informed about positive tests. Good. Let’s hope the errors of the past will not be repeated.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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