By Travis Mounts
Two local people have died as a result of COVID-19.
One person has died as part of a cluster of cases at Clearwater Nursing and Rehabilitation, it was announced Tuesday by Sedgwick County. That person was not identified.
In addition, a Conway Springs man became one of the first people to die from COVID-19. Gary Ast died on April 8 at Ascension Via Christi-St. Francis, according to his obituary.
Clearwater Mayor Burt Ussery confirmed that there had been one death and four hospitalizations tied to the nursing care facility in his city. According to Sedgwick County officials, it is one of five clusters of cases in the county. Three are tied to churches and the other is tied to a business.
“We want to make sure everything that can be done is being done,” Ussery said Tuesday afternoon. It is unknown if there are other potential cases related to the facility. “We just have to sit and wait for that work to be done.”
Clusters are two or more non-household COVID-19 cases identified in a certain timeframe and place. Sedgwick County recommends that any long-term care facility that has positive cases of COVID-19 isolate symptomatic people away from other residents and monitor all residents and staff for symptoms. Sedgwick County Health Department personnel are working to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“I’m appreciative of the county health department working so closely with the facility,” Ussery said.
As reported in Times-Sentinel Newspapers on March 19, local nursing home facilities closed their doors to visitors and others well ahead of local and statewide stay-at-home orders.
Ast battled many health challenges throughout his life, according to his obituary. They started as an infant. He survived an accident that claimed the life of his twin brother, Larry, and survived third-degree burns suffered at age 57.
Ast was 66. Services are pending. His obituary is located in this week’s paper on Page A2.
Ast was the first of two positive cases identified in Sumner County, and the first fatality. As of Tuesday, Sedgwick County had 206 confirmed cases with three deaths. A Haysville man died from COVID-19 just more than two weeks ago.
In Tuesday’s report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas had 62 counties reporting positive cases of COVID-19. Statewide as of Tuesday, there have been 1,426 positive cases with 69 deaths. More than 12,700 negative test results had been received, showing that Kansas continues on an upward trend with its testing.
As of Tuesday, Cowley County had one case, which resulted in hospitalization. Butler County had nine cases with three people hospitalized, Harvey County saw five cases with two people in the hospital, and Reno County had 13 cases with four hospitalized. Kingman and Harper counties were still without a confirmed positive case.
UPDATE 4/17/20: The following information was shared Thursday by Clearwater Mayor Burt Ussery.
I want to provide an update regarding the recent reported outbreak of COVID-19 at the Clearwater Nursing & Rehab Center, Clearwater. This update is made in combination with the Clearwater Nursing & Rehab Center.
First, some information. The Clearwater Nursing & Rehab Center and Clearwater Assisted Living are both owned and managed by Cornerstone Healthcare Solutions based in Manhattan, KS. Cornerstone Healthcare took over management and operational responsibility of the Clearwater facilities in November 2019. According to Mr. Willie Novotny, President and CEO, the nursing home has 53 residents, the assisted living 34, and the independent living has 4.
As of this update, all incidents of COVID-19 have been only reported in the nursing home.
Here is what we know as of right now, Thursday, April 16th
Confirmed positive for COVID-19:
• 8 residents, who are currently hospitalized
• 2 staff members
• With 1 death also positive for COVID-19
Testing: on Wednesday, 30 residents were tested and the remaining were tested Thursday. The results for the first 30 are expected by Friday, and the second set to follow.
Under current testing guidelines, the only reason the facility patients were able to be tested was because the facility qualified as a “cluster”. However, staff will only be tested by doctors’ orders and will not be tested unless they show symptoms.
Safety precautions consist of the following:
• All residents are tested 2 times per day for symptoms. Any abnormal readings are immediately reported to the medical director who makes the decision regarding additional precautions or transport to the hospital.
• Entry into the facility is limited to staff and those involved in “end of life” matters with a resident. Anyone who does not meet these restrictions are not allow to enter.
• Anyone entering the facility is checked for the following symptoms and if present are not allowed to enter (a temperature of 100.4 or higher, a cough, or other respiratory concerns).
Sedgwick County Health Department has been apprised of the situation and is working with and monitoring the situation daily. County health officials are working to track and notify all contacts as required by the CDC.
I have been assured that the facility has, and continues to follow all guidance issued by CDC and state authorities and has senior management and ownership on site until the situation passes.
The county health department is working closely with the facility to identify and mitigate the virus as quickly as possible.
For our community….we ask first that you keep all the facility residents and staff in your thoughts and prayers as we navigate these unprecedented difficult times. We pray for the family that has lost their family member and for all those that are being treated for COVID-19.
If you are concerned about any potential contact with someone you suspect has or had, COVID-19, or you think you might have symptoms, you should immediately contact your medical provider for direction or you can call 211 to initiate the screening process.
In all situations, the Sedgwick County Health Department reminds
everyone to take precautions to reduce their risk of getting COVID-19:
• Stay home
• Wash your hands often with soap and water
• Cover all coughs and sneezes
• Maintain social distancing – keep six feet of space between you and others
• Limit public gatherings to 10 people or less
I will continue to update as necessary. If you have any questions regarding specific resident or staff member, contact the Clearwater Nursing & Rehab Center at 620-584-2271.
Thank you, Burt Ussery, Mayor
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct two typographical errors. Gary Ast died on April 8, not April 18. Times-Sentinel Newspapers first reported that local nursing homes were going into lockdown in the March 19 paper, not the April 19 paper.