By Alyssa Schnugg
Four veterans have died at the Mississippi State Veterans Home in Oxford in the last 10 days due to COVID-19 and 30 residents have tested positive, according to Mississippi Veterans Affairs Executive Director Stacey Pickering.
“On behalf of everyone at our agency, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of the residents that passed away due to complications from COVID-19,” Pickering said. “We want to make sure the families of our residents are aware of the steps that we are taking to mitigate the impacts of the virus.”
Fourteen staff members have also tested positive for the virus.
Pickering said most of the staff members who tested positive work in housekeeping.
“Which is a blessing, so our nurses and medical staff can keep caring for the veterans,” he said this morning on SuperTalk Mississippi radio.
The four veterans who died also had underlining medical conditions, he said.
Two of the veterans died sometime last week, according to a press release posted on Monday. Since then, another two have died as a result of the virus. However, Pickering said most of the residents who tested positive have had mild symptoms.
“Most of those who have tested positive are mildly symptomatic,” Pickering said. “Low-grade fever, slight coughs.”
There are about 150 residents in the home.
Pickering said three of the four state-run veterans homes have had outbreaks.
“We had 49 people with it in our Kosciusko home but we’ve been COVID-free there for a month now,” he said.
Through its COVID-19 response plan, MSVH is working to combat the spread of the virus by using recommendations from the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pickering said the families of the four veterans who died were allowed to visit with their loved ones before their deaths. Generally, contact visitation is not currently allowed at the homes; however, “compassion visits” are allowed when the death of a resident is imminent.
“We don’t want our veterans to die alone,” Pickering said.
The Mississippi State Department of Health is notified of all residents and staff who test positive for COVID-19 as required. However, the outbreak at the Oxford home has not yet been noted on the MSDH’s weekly data report.
The Oxford home takes residents from outside of Lafayette County. Currently, if a veteran dies and was not originally from Lafayette County, their death is reported in the county and/or state where they lived prior to becoming a resident of the Oxford home and is not included in Lafayette County numbers of COVID-19-related deaths. The same goes for those who have tested positive.
The MSDH’s reporting of cases and deaths at long-term care facilities is updated weekly and the Oxford outbreak should be reflected in the next update on Thursday.
The protocol for a positive test of a resident or staff at any of the Mississippi State Veterans Homes is as follows:
- Residents identified as “at-risk” (residents identified as having direct contact with staff who test positive through contact tracing) are isolated, closely monitored and tested for COVID-19.
- At-risk residents remain in isolation until results are received or begin exhibiting symptoms.
- If the resident tests positive or shows signs and symptoms, he/she is immediately transferred to the COVID unit of the home.
- Residents who test positive are transferred to the COVID unit. He/she remains in the unit for a minimum of 14 days or until he/she is symptom-free for 72 hours, or test negative for COVID-19.
- Testing after 14 days may be obtained per a medical doctor’s orders. However, it is not mandatory per guidelines.
- A team member is placed on administrative leave immediately following known COVID-19 exposure.
- A team member is required to test for COVID-19 and/or quarantine for 14 days.
- A team member may return to work after 14 days of testing positive and is symptom-free for 72 hours.
In addition to this protocol, anyone entering the facility (staff, medical professionals, contractors, delivery/vendor partners, others) are required to be screened and wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE). All in-person visitation at the Mississippi State Veterans Home in Oxford has been suspended until conditions are deemed safe for residents and staff.