LINCOLN, Neb. - Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department said on Tuesday that early collaboration with long-term care facilities to prepare for the spread of COVID-19 has helped minimize the impact of the virus in those locations. Lancaster County has 52 nursing and assisted living facilities that are regulated through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
“From the beginning of this pandemic, a primary focus of our local response has been to ensure the health and safety of our community’s most vulnerable members,” Mayor Gaylor Baird said. “While this virus can impact any one of us, we know that individuals living in close quarters with others are more susceptible to the spread of COVID-19. Because of this increased risk, we have been especially vigilant about the potential for transmission of the virus within long-term care facilities – including skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.”
Pat Lopez, Interim Director of LLCHD said the Health Department has been meeting with long-term care facilities since early March to make sure they have the latest information on COVID-19.
“Collaboration with our older adult care facilities is vital because residents are at a heightened risk of serious complications from illness due to the dual threat of age and close living conditions,” Lopez said.
Lopez said that when a COVID-19 case is discovered in a facility, the Health Department’s communicable disease team is quickly activated. They contact the facility to provide recommendations and infection control support. The team begins contact tracing to determine the source of the infection and how it may be spreading. They ask questions and collect information to help identify anyone the patient has had close contact with. The team then communicates with these close contacts to ensure isolation and quarantine guidelines are being followed – guidelines which vary depending on the setting.
In the event that a staff member or resident tests positive for COVID-19, the team makes arrangements for additional testing at the facility as needed.
Christie Hinrichs, President and CEO of Tabitha, a nonprofit provider of health care services for older adults founded and headquartered in Lincoln, said basic health precautions serve a critical function throughout Tabitha’s 28-county network.
“We can do our best work to protect seniors from the virus when each of us take seriously the responsibility to wear masks and practice good hygiene.”
Lopez added that facilities are doing what all residents and businesses should be doing – just on a larger scale and with a more stringent process:
-Support good hand hygiene and cough etiquette by residents, visitors, and employees
-Ensure strict adherence to infection prevention practices with disinfection in their facilities
-Prevent the introduction of respiratory illnesses into facilities
-Work closely with the health department for guidance in response to a positive case
More information on COVID-19 and the City’s response is available at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov. The website includes information on how those with symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested in Lincoln.