ANDERSON — Madison County took its hardest hit yet from the coronavirus Monday, when the state announced that 11 people who were residents of a local assisted living facility had died.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said in an afternoon news conference that the 11 had died since March 26 at Bethany Pointe Health Campus in north Anderson. Box tied their deaths to positive tests for COVID-19.
Local health officials said Monday that only five of the 11 had actually tested positive for coronavirus and that the remainder had not been tested.
The officials noted that the positive tests at Bethany Pointe signal a deep rate of infection at the facility.
“We assume everyone is positive” for the COVID-19 virus at Bethany Pointe, Madison County Health Officer Dr. Stephen Wright said.
The facility is owned by Hancock Regional Hospital in Greenfield and had 44 occupied residential care beds and 32 occupied Alzheimer’s beds as of Jan. 17, according to a state health department report.
“On March 27, our strike team and a nurse surveyor visited the facility and tested symptomatic individuals,” Box said. “At that time we confirmed three positive residents.”
Box said state officials had ongoing contact with Bethany Pointe management and visited the facility several times to discuss infection control and isolation and to do further testing.
“Unfortunately, this situation quickly escalated,” Box said. “When we visited on Friday, we were informed that 20 residents were in isolation and that nine individuals had died. Sadly, two more residents have died since then for a total of 11 deaths.”
Three employees were hospitalized, two of whom are critically ill, according to Box.
“There are a lot of people with symptoms” at Bethany Pointe, said Dr. Troy Abbott, president of the county board of health. “Maybe as many as 40.”
Abbott noted that the staff at Bethany Pointe didn’t have enough personal protective equipment to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“They are doing the best they can,” he said of Bethany Pointe employees. “They have an immediate need for staffing help; they’re on a skeleton crew.”
Requests for comment from Bethany Pointe were directed to Michelle Schaefer, spokesperson for Trilogy Health Services. Attempts Monday to reach Shaefer were unsuccessful.
All residents of the building where the outbreak occurred have been tested, even individuals who are asymptomatic, according to Box, who noted that all those who test positive will be quarantined.
“This is a heartbreaking situation and illustrates what a brutal toll COVID-19 can take on our most vulnerable populations,” Box said.
Madison County health officials said that COVID-19 infections are prevalent in one other local assisted living facility but declined to specify which one.
“It’s awful,” Abbott said. “We don’t want it in any others.”
Wright, the county health officer, said that Bethany Pointe management had wanted to transfer 29 residents to a facility in Henry County.
Assisted living facility residents can’t be transferred until they are tested twice within five days, Wright explained, cautioning that the test produces a false negative 30% of the time.
“That’s why we didn’t want to transfer to Henry County, where there have been no deaths,” he said.
As of midnight Sunday, the State Department of Health was reporting 398 tested, 101 positive tests and nine deaths of COVID-19 in Madison County. It was unclear how many of those deaths included the 11 Bethany Pointe residents.