Four Scott County congregate care facilities and three Carver County facilities have confirmed cases of coronavirus among their residents and staff, including two deaths at McKenna Crossing in Prior Lake, according to data released by the Minnesota Department of Health earlier this month.
The state data says that affected facilities include Shakopee’s St. Gertrude’s Health and Rehabilitation Center with 18 cases, Friendship Manor with 11 and Emerald Crest with six, according to the June 5 data. McKenna saw six staff member cases and nine among residents.
Auburn Meadows and Nagel Assisted Living and Memory Care in Waconia both had one reported case among staff. SummerWood of Chanhassen has reported one case each among staff and residents.
Both SummerWood of Chanhassen and McKenna Crossing are owned by Presbyterian Homes and Services.
At least three facilities have said that the state’s data is incorrect.
Michelle Yelich, the Marketing and Community Outreach Manager for Auburn Meadows, said in an email that two staff members at the facility in Chaska and one staff member at the facility and Waconia tested positive for the coronavirus instead of the one staff case listed by the state.
Friendship Manor Director of Social Services Jamie Mohlin said the Shakopee facility has actually had three staff cases and eight resident cases.
The Nagel Assisted Living Facility in Waconia didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time Thursday, though a staff member who answered the phone told a reporter he wasn’t aware of a case there.
‘Doing what they can’
The coronavirus has led to more than 3,500 hospitalizations and more than 1,200 deaths in Minnesota, according to the department’s count as of Thursday.
Most infected people recover, but symptoms can become severe or deadly, particularly in older people or those with other health conditions. The virus spreads most easily among closely grouped people indoors, according to state and federal health officials.
Known cases have ranged from infancy to more than 100 years old, but most of those who have died were older and staying in long-term care or assisted living facilities. Those facilities for the past couple of months have limited or banned visitors and taken other steps to slow the virus’s arrival.
Families at McKenna Crossing say they feel that staff are been responsive and proactive in trying to protect residents.
Michelle Bahr’s mother, Eileen Gunderson, has lived in the assisted living facility McKenna Crossing for the last two years. Bahr said she’s happy that her 83-year-old mother was there when the pandemic hit.
She and her brothers briefly discussed moving their mother elsewhere, but “we just decided that mom really is just getting the best care there,” Bahr said.
“They’re really a wonderful facility to work with, they’ve been really good to my mom, really good to our family,” she added.
Even before McKenna Crossing had any confirmed cases, Bahr said, her mother saw only the food delivery staff and nursing staff each day, a facility-wide strategy meant to prevent the virus’s spread. Staff helped keep Bahr’s mother feeling connected with her family by setting up weekly Facetime visits for the residents.
“These folks are completely reliant on staff, and I just have nothing but good to say about the staff, they’re so good,” Bahr said.
Ernie Peacock makes regular drop-offs of care packages at the facility for his wife, Carole, who lives in the memory care unit. Peacock said he’s concerned about his wife catching the virus, but he feels like she’s in good hands.
“Those are really quality people and they deserve recognition,” Peacock said. “They’re the ones that are doing the best they can.”
The facility didn’t return a request for comment by press time Thursday.
Mohlin and Yelich said their facilities have taken similar measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Mohlin said at Friendship Manor a COVID Infectious Control Committee meets to match updated protocols and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the MDH. Families have communicated with residents by way of phone calls, cards, video chats and window visits while the facility remains closed to visitors.
Yelich said Auburn Meadows has put in place visitor restrictions, deep cleaning protocols, symptom monitoring and a mask and protective eyewear requirement for all staff and private caregivers. She called the lack of resident cases a “true testament to our staff and the pre-cautions they take both inside and outside of our buildings.”
The department previously released names of congregate care facilities with coronavirus exposures online, but those with fewer than 10 residents weren’t included, and neither was the exact number of cases among residents and staff. State officials said they worried the information could violate privacy laws.
That changed on June 5, when Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Marys Point) sent a letter to Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm stating that she would pursue a legislative subpoena for the information if it wasn’t released.
The release showed the state’s public list was incomplete. Through Wednesday afternoon, Friendship Manor was not listed despite having 11 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 80 beds, according to the facility’s website.
Scott County Public Health Director Lisa Brodsky, who has been maintaining the county’s coronavirus surveillance report, said she wasn’t sure why the facility was left out. She added the facility and two deaths at McKenna Crossing to the statistics on the county’s report on Wednesday.