Blue Mountain Care Center has increased COVID-19 protocols after a recent outbreak.

The care center announced that six residents and seven employees tested positive for COVID-19 in March.

In a joint press release Blue Mountain Hospital District’s Rebekah Rand, director of emergency services, and Lori Lane, district health information manager, said before the outbreak BMCC was practicing appropriate social distancing, hand hygiene and cough etiquette with the education provided on all three topics to staff, residents and visitors.

The press release said that residents, visitors, and staff were all encouraged to wear proper face masks and eye protection while in the facility.

Rand and Lane said the facility’s staff screened anyone entering the building, including temperature checks and screening questions about COVID-19 signs, symptoms, exposure and travel.

They said all residents were monitored for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 twice per day. Additionally, they told the Eagle, residents with any sign or symptom of COVID-19 were tested immediately for the virus.

After the onset of positive cases at the nursing home, the facility’s precautions have been “enhanced.” They suspended all indoor visitation, communal activities and communal dining.

Lane and Rand said, before the outbreak this month, the care center had been “fortunate” to avoid any positive cases among the residents since the beginning of the pandemic over a year ago.

They said there is no way to determine the virus’s source at the facility definitively.

It could be in-person visits, they said, which the care center had resumed as the number of cases in the county declined. Or it may have been the coming and going of residents after restrictions were lifted. Rand and Lane said the community spread in the county was another possible source.

They said they could not comment on the employee vaccination rate at BMCC. They said between 40-50 employees work at the care center. This includes contract, permanent and temporary staff.

“All employees were offered the vaccine when it first arrived in Grant County,” they said.

Rand and Lane said all were — and still are — encouraged to get the vaccine. The press release stated they could not require employees to get vaccinated “as a condition of employment.”

Nonetheless, they said, both the hospital district and the Grant County Health Department have seen a recent increase in interest in receiving the vaccine from employees and the county at large, following the recent increase in positive cases in March.

They said the hospital district respects their employees’ personal decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, Rand and Lane said they “highly encourage” all employees and the community to get the vaccine to reduce the virus’s spread.

Longtime Grant County residents Jim and Beth Spell, who have a family member at Blue Mountain Care Center, said the administration and staff have been “great” in keeping in contact with them about the outbreak. However, Jim Spell noted the care center does not require staff members to get the vaccine as a condition of employment.

Beth Spell she is grateful that her brother has been vaccinated.

She said a common refrain she hears after COVID-19 deaths is that they had pre-existing conditions and would have died anyway.

“We want to keep our loved ones around for as long as we can,” she said.

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Steven Mitchell is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. Contact him at steven@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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