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Surge of COVID-19 cases affecting Lincoln's skilled nursing facilities
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Surge of COVID-19 cases affecting Lincoln's skilled nursing facilities

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Heroes sign

A "Heroes Work Here" sign shown outside the Lancaster Rehabilitation Center on Thursday, April 9, 2020. 

Lancaster Rehabilitation Center officials acknowledged an outbreak of COVID-19 at the largest skilled nursing facility in the state, with 293 licensed beds.

Administrator Amy Fish said that from the start of the pandemic until last week, no residents had tested positive. 

"We were considering ourselves pretty blessed with keeping the virus away that long," she said. 

Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department Director Pat Lopez said Tuesday afternoon there were 41 cases at Lincoln Rehabilitation Center, 1001 South St. A team from the health department is working closely with staff there to contain the spread. 

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Legacy Terrace in Lincoln has reported 26 residents with the virus and one death, Lopez said.

The centers are testing their staff twice a week, and more often with more cases. And the health department is encouraging long-term care facilities to share outbreak information with the community.

"I think it's important for the community to know what's happening in our long-term care centers," Lopez said. 

Thirteen of Lancaster County's 73 deaths have been attributed to people in long-term care facilities, about 18%. 

Lancaster Rehabilitation Center sent a news release Tuesday for the sake of letting the community know what was going on there, Fish said. 

The coronavirus transmits unlike any they have seen, she said, and made its way to residents in spite of the extreme precautions taken since the pandemic began, including visitor restrictions.

So far, the cases among residents have been mild, with no deaths, she said. 

"It's a controlled environment, which really helps," Fish said. "Staff are wearing full PPE, from the moment they walk in the door until the moment they leave. That helps us to mitigate the transfer."

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The safety and care of residents has been humbling and outstanding throughout the pandemic, she said. 

"That to me says a lot about our team," she said. "This is not a normal time for us." 

There's no method to know exactly how people get the virus or bring it into a facility. Residents come and go from the facility to hospitals, health clinics, dialysis centers and other places for medical treatments. 

"There's always going to be risks," Fish said. 

The facility continues to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19, she said. And it is working with the University of Nebraska Medical Center to further support infection control and emergency preparedness efforts.

Since studies have proven that positivity rates in a community directly correlate with outbreaks in long-term care facilities, Fish said they are pleading with everyone in Lancaster County to help protect people by staying home, wearing a face mask, practicing physical distancing and avoiding gatherings.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature

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