Four residents of Skyline Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Floyd tested positive for coronavirus after members of the National Guard performed a point prevalence survey at the facility recently.

Point prevalence testing refers to testing every person in a designated area of a long-term care facility, whether or not they have symptoms, on the same day (or sometimes over two days). Governor Northam and the Long-Term Care Task Force initiated the point prevalence survey project in April due to the large impact COVID-19 is having at long-term care facilities and nursing homes.

As of June 19, residents at such facilities represent more than 60% of the total fatalities from coronavirus in Virginia, according to reporting by the Roanoke Times. More than 1,000 residents of long-term care and nursing facilities in the state have died.

According to New River Health District Director Dr. Noelle Bissell, "We are currently working with long term care facilities throughout the district to offer PPS. We are also offering assistance with fit testing for N95 masks and guidance for best practices for infection prevention and control." 

Bissell said the health district also works with congregate setting facilities to test new residents after initial quarantine. Deese said new residents are typically tested for coronavirus after five days. 

The four cases at Skyline appear to be the same four that appeared on the Virginia Department of Health (VDH)’s coronavirus dashboard on Sunday, June 21. The four new cases reported in Floyd County represent a 40% increase in the county’s total number of positive cases, and Sunday saw the largest single-day jump in cases since the pandemic began.

Carroll County, which borders Floyd to the west, has likewise seen a steady and significant increase in cases over time. The county currently has 189 positive results. Last week, Gov. Northam reversed course on his policy not to identify by name long-term care facilities with outbreaks. Data released by VDH shows that 63 of the cases in Carroll County originate from Hillsville Health and Rehab.

Initially, Jason Deese, an epidemiologist for the New River Health District, declined to confirm the outbreak at Skyline, saying, “Specific locations right now, we still don’t talk about unless the facility has released (the information) or if it’s been officially reported to Richmond; those two conditions at the moment don’t exist.”

After speaking with Deese on the morning of Monday, June 22, the Floyd Press reached Jennifer Trapp, a spokesperson for Skyline via Consulate Health Care, later that day, who then confirmed the four positive cases.

“We did have four positive cases at Skyline; they were all residents,” Trapp said. “All those residents are asymptomatic,” she continued.

Trapp emphasized that since the beginning of this crisis, Skyline has closely followed all guidelines and recommendations to protect resident and staff health. In March, the facility began restricting visitation. “Prior to that, we had been screening all visitors (with) a very comprehensive tool to monitor for signs and symptoms,” Trapp explained.

Trapp said it’s difficult to know for sure how residents were infected, because so little is still known about how the coronavirus is transmitted. “I just think these caregivers, these staff members, are working tirelessly, so it would be really unfair to make an assumption (about transmission),” Trapp said. “There’s just so much that no one knows yet about how this virus is contracted.”

In Deese’s view, information about an outbreak at a specific location should not impact how the general public responds to the threat of the virus. “The illness is increasing throughout our entire area, something that we’d expect when we opened up for Phase II,” Deese said, adding that there is also a lot of COVID-19 testing happening in the New River Valley, including some in Floyd.

“The virus is pretty much everywhere…knowing a specific location is not actionable intel for you,” Deese continued. “The virus could be just about anywhere, so you should follow the precautions that we’ve recommended,” he said, including wearing a face mask in indoor public spaces, especially when social distancing is not possible.

Trapp confirmed that the Skyline residents who tested positive have been quarantined. “We have a COVID unit for isolation, and containment and recovery,” Trapp said. “Our focus is going to be on making sure that they are receiving the case that they need, and that we continue to protect other residents and staff.”

The families of affected residents have already been notified, Trapp confirmed.

This story has been updated to include a comment from New River Health District Director Dr. Noelle Bissell. 

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