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Virus has taken lives of 22 veterans home residents

As America prepared to remember its military men and women this week, there was a stark reminder that many older veterans who survived war have fallen victim to a virus that has claimed more lives in this country than the number of U.S. service members killed in battle in Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm combined and approaching the number who died in World War II.

The coronavirus death toll among residents of the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore has more than doubled in the past week from 13 to 22.

The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services COVID-19 website reports that, as of Nov. 9, 87 residents and 63 employees of the state veterans home, one of four in Kentucky, have contracted the virus. However, new infections have slowed. There was only one new COVID-19 case involving a resident as of Nov. 9 and none involving staff. 

Forty-two residents and 53 staff members have met the criteria for recovery.

As of Sunday, there were still 24 active cases among residents and 10 among employees, according to the website.

The website reported 21 deaths, but in a televised press conference Monday night, Gov. Andy Beshear said there had been 22.

“Because we Kentuckians have failed to stop community spread so far, we can’t keep it out of places like this,” Beshear said. “Twenty-two veterans from one facility being lost — that’s hard. I hope, again with Veterans Day coming up, we can do better by them.”

The outbreak began around Oct. 2, when two employees tested positive for the virus and soon after, residents in the part of the facility where those two worked started testing positive.

In September, three employees had tested positive.

Those who had symptoms were transferred to the federal Lexington Veterans Administration Medical Center, and those with positive tests who showed no symptoms were isolated at the nursing home. Additional staff were brought in from the federal VA and other state facilities to help address the issue.

In a joint media release last week, the Jessamine County Health Department and Jessamine County Schools said the outbreak at the nursing home was a contributing factor in the county being in the critical or “red zone” for infections, meaning there were 25 or more cases per 100,000 population. (Jessamine County has a positivity rate of 26.9 cases per 100,000.) However, Beshear connected the rising number of cases in the nursing home to the increasing number of cases in the community.

There have been only a few cases at the other three state veterans homes, including the Paul E. Patton Veterans Center in Hazard, which had the first outbreak in August and which is the only other one besides Wilmore’s that has recorded at least one resident death from the virus.

According to The Courier Journal, 60 percent of the state’s 1,576 COVID-19 deaths have involved nursing home residents.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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