Oak Hill outbreak results in 8 deaths

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Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said, as of Monday, a total of eight residents at Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation in Waterloo have now died from the coronavirus.

Wagner said the latest death at the facility, which he reported Monday, was a man in his 70s.

Wagner also announced Monday that the state confirmed two previously suspected coronavirus deaths. One of those individuals fell and died shortly after, while the other had a number of serious health conditions.

According to Wagner, Monroe County’s death total now stands at 23.

Two more residents at Oak Hill – the county-run senior care facility – one in their 80s and one in their 90s, died Sunday.

Males and females have died, with the three latest ranging from their 60s to their 90s. A 90-year-old woman’s death was reported Thursday, while a woman in her 80s died last Sunday.

“We’re trying to get it locked down so it stops spreading,” Wagner said of the Oak Hill outbreak. “The 12 new cases (on Friday) were in a new wing.”

Oak Hill has 36 Monroe County residents sick with the virus currently, most of whom are residents. There are also a few staff members who contracted the illness who live in other counties, so Wagner does not know the total cases at the facility.

Wagner said few of the people at Oak Hill have recovered from the virus now.

“A couple of the first ones are starting to come off (quarantine),” he said.

The deaths come after Wagner said an 82-year-old man with underlying health conditions who was not associated with a long-term care facility died of the virus last Thursday.

Wagner confirmed last Sunday that a resident of Oak Hill died from the virus after that facility had an outbreak that was first reported the previous week. 

The first deceased resident at Oak Hill was 88-year-old Catherine Kutterer, according to her granddaughter, Elizabeth Kutterer Sanchez. 

“COVID is the worst. COVID is not fair. COVID is not a fake virus. COVID is not a political agenda,” Kutterer Sanchez wrote on Facebook. “It’s not right that final goodbyes were said over the phone. It’s not right that she hadn’t been able to hug a family member since going on lockdown at Oak Hill since February. It’s not right that she died surrounded by strangers.” 

“We’ve already had, unfortunately, one resident pass away, and that’s one too many,” Oak Hill Administrator Brian Koontz said after Kutterer died.

Koontz said the facility is doing all it can to contain the virus. 

“We’ve prepared for it, and we’re enacting our plan with some skill and compassion,” he said. “It’s a little difficult. The containment is a little like holding water in your hands.”

Koontz said he anticipates “a few more” weeks of positive tests at the facility, though he also noted that the first wave of residents who have recovered from COVID-19 will be released from the coronavirus wing soon. 

He also said there will most likely be more deaths. 

“Unfortunately, we probably anticipate a few more deaths before all this is done,” Koontz said. “Our hearts go out to the friends and family who may fall to this virus. We’re going to do everything we can to minimize that.” 

After the initial Oak Hill outbreak, Wagner decided to retest the residents who tested positive because he thought it was odd for people of that age to be asymptomatic. 

The second round of tests resulted in two residents who previously tested positive getting a negative test result, while three new cases were found, per Wagner. 

The residents are using the pharyngeal swab, which is the more accurate of tests.

Kutterer Sanchez said her grandmother was among those who were asymptomatic at first. 

“Just because something is initially reported as asymptomatic doesn’t mean that the individual hasn’t gotten worse,” she wrote. “Pray for the rest of the people who now have it there that are still fighting it.”

Integrity Healthcare of Columbia is also battling a COVID-19 outbreak, its second. Wagner does not know how many people there have gotten the virus because residents who contract it are moved to another facility.

“They have something going on there, but they don’t show up on our totals because as soon as someone tests positive, they move them (out of the county),” Wagner explained. 

Wagner said outbreaks at nursing homes are not a reflection of the general public’s adherence to public health guidelines, because the virus will find its way into senior care facilities over time. 

“Our case numbers had been going down when it got in there,” he noted. “When it’s out in the general public, the more chance you have of the employees of the place catching it and the screening process not picking it up, and that’s what happened here.”

A prayer session is planned for Thursday, Oct. 8 at Oak Hill to show support for all those battling the outbreak. Residents are encouraged to gather outside of the facility at 11 a.m., following proper social distancing and mask protocols. Attendees are asked to bring signs of encouragement.

Thees outbreaks are occurring as Monroe County made the IDPH list for being at the warning level again.

For the week of Sept. 20, Monroe County had 137 cases per 100,000 people (the goal is 50 or fewer), a test positivity rate of 8.4 percent (the goal is less than or equal to 8 percent) and 726 tests performed (the goal is to do enough tests to meet the positivity rate goal).

The county passed all other metrics.

“Public health officials are observing businesses blatantly disregarding mitigation measures, people not social distancing, gathering in large groups and not using face coverings,” the IDPH said in a press release. “Mayors, local law enforcement, state’s attorneys and other community leaders can be influential in ensuring citizens and businesses follow best practices.”

Wagner noted on Friday that the county’s numbers have largely gotten worse due to the outbreaks at the two senior care facilities.

“Our numbers are actually going down in the general public,” he said.

Wagner announced Monday that an IDPH mobile test site will be in Waterloo Oct. 10-11 and Oct. 16-17. The site will be at 901 Illinois Avenue. It is a drive-up site with no appointments being taken.

Monroe County has had 746 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. There are 66 active cases and seven residents hospitalized with the virus.

The uptick in hospitalizations is due to the outbreaks at the two senior care facilities.

Five new cases, three from Oak Hill, were announced Tuesday, one new case was announced Monday, 26 new cases, 23 from long-term care facilities, were announced Saturday, 12 new cases, eight from the long-term care facilities, were announced Friday, eight new cases were announced Thursday and two new cases were announced Wednesday.

The region’s positivity rate has risen five days since Sept. 24. The metro east had a 6.7 percent test positivity rate as of Oct. 3

The region has had two days of hospitalization increases since Sept. 24. It has 36 percent hospital availability and 50 percent ICU bed availability.

According to the state’s coronavirus resurgence mitigation plan, if the region’s positivity rate drops to an average between 6.5 and 8 percent, current restrictions will remain in place and the state will consider imposing more. 

If it falls to 6.5 percent or lower, current limitations will be lifted.

Wagner said he has not heard of the state lifting the mitigations currently imposed in the metro east, but he pointed out that indoor dining will not be feasible much longer as the weather gets colder. 

He also noted Monroe County sees few cases from bars and restaurants, which are most affected by current restrictions. 

“Pretty much, if you say no indoor dining, you shut down bars and restaurants completely,” Wagner said. “To destroy these businesses for a 1-2 case reduction per week, it just doesn’t make sense.” 

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 388 cases (5,860 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 286 cases (2,116 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 29 cases (258 tests), according to the IDPH.

In St. Clair County, there have been 7,721 total positive tests and 196 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 93,130 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 996 confirmed cases, 44 of which are active. Thirteen people have died from the virus in that county. A total of 13,313 people have been tested there.

Statewide, there are 305,011 cases of coronavirus and 8,836 deaths, according to the IDPH.

Missouri has recorded 134,583 confirmed cases and 2,200 deaths as of Tuesday. That includes 23,976 cases in St. Louis County and 7,255 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 7.4 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 210,239 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 35.5 million cases of coronavirus and over 1 million COVID-19-related deaths.

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