As the highly contagious coronavirus swept through nursing homes in southeast Michigan, public health officials struggled to contain the deadly spread and protect the state’s most vulnerable residents.
More than 3,200 residents of nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other residential facilities for the elderly have tested positive for COVID-19 and 700 have died in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, according to data obtained by Metro Times
. That’s a fatality rate of nearly 22%, which shows how deadly the coronavirus is among the elderly.
Mohammad Qazi, president and CEO of Ciena Healthcare, which operates seven nursing homes in Detroit, said the lack of testing early on made it difficult to identify sick residents quickly enough to isolate them. At Ciena Healthcare's Regency in Livonia, at least 15 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19.
“Because there was a lack of testing three weeks ago, someone comes in and infects somebody,” Qazi said at a recent news conference. "Unfortunately, it’s an infection that spread very quickly. ... The best we can do is contain it.”
In Detroit, 187 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19, and 943 tested positive. Of the 26 nursing homes in the city, 24 reported at least one death. Eight reported at least 10 deaths, and four reported at least 15 deaths.
Macomb reported 750 confirmed cases and 170 deaths at nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other residential facilities for the elderly. Oakland County identified more than 1,100 positive cases and more than 250 deaths.
Detroit’s numbers don’t include assisted living centers, adult foster care homes, and senior housing because the city has not released data on them. But the city will begin testing every resident at those facilities using a $400,000 donation from Raj Vattikuti, CEO of Southfield tech consulting firm Altimetrik.
Last week, Detroit finished a 10-day plan to test all 2,433 nursing home residents. Of those tested, 38.8% tested positive, and 7.7% have died.
At the nursing homes, the city used tests from Abbott Laboratories that produce results in 15 minutes. City health officials then followed up with nursing homes to ensure they were properly isolating residents who tested positive.
“Our senior citizens at nursing homes are a lot safer today than they were two weeks ago,” Mayor Mike Duggan said. “I’m not sure anybody in America has gone through nursing homes to ensure the safety of nursing homes like we have.”
Detroit, which also is beginning to test every nursing home employee, released data on every nursing home
in the city.
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