5 San Juan County nursing homes, assisted living facilities have positive COVID-19 cases

Sam Ribakoff
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Department of Health is reporting that five nursing and assisted living homes in San Juan County have residents and employees who have tested positive for COVID-19.

There are now more nursing and assisted living homes with positive COVID-19 cases in San Juan County than any other county in the state.

Those facilities are: Aztec Healthcare, BeeHive Homes of Farmington, Cedar Ridge Inn, Life Care Center of Farmington and Welbrook Rehabilitation Center.  

Aztec Healthcare has one resident who has tested positive for COVID-19 and two staff members who have also tested positive according to the state DOH.

BeeHive Homes has two staff members who have tested positive.

Spokesperson for Cedar Ridge Inn, Melody Chatelle, told The Daily Times that as of noon on April 23, they are self reporting that 10 residents at their Farmington facility and one employee have tested positive for COVID-19. Two residents of the facility have died after contracting the virus.  

The state DOH had only reported that two residents and one staff member had tested positive for COVID-19 on the afternoon of April 22.

BeeHive Homes Assisted Living in Farmington on April 23, 2020.

Life Care Center of Farmington has 17 staff members who have tested positive and 14 residents. Seven residents at the facility have died after contracting COVID-19

Welbrook has one resident who has tested positive. One resident has died at the facility after contracting COVID-19.

When The Daily Times reached out to Aztec Healthcare for a comment when the facility was initially included in a list put out by the state DOH in mid-April of nursing and assisted living facilities with staff and residents who had tested positive for COVID-19, administrators at the facility called the DOH report "incorrect." 

When The Daily Times further confirmed the number of cases with the DOH, Aztec Healthcare administrator J William Himes declined to comment further and said in an email that the facility is "actively engaged in caring for our residents during this difficult time."

New reporting requirements

On April 19, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that nursing homes will now be required to inform residents and their family members of positive COVID-19 cases in their facilities, as well as mandating facilities with positive cases to report the cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

"Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19," CMS administrator Seema Verma wrote in a press statement, "Nursing home reporting to the CDC is a critical component of the go-forward national COVID-19 surveillance system and to efforts to reopen America."  

MORE:Latest coronavirus updates from San Juan County, Four Corners region

The owner and managing partner of BeeHive Homes, Nate Manning, said that after the first staff member of the facility tested positive for COVID-19, all staff and residents were tested for the virus. Now staff are asked to take their temperature at the door before they come to work, as well as wear masks and fill out questionnaires before they start work to ascertain whether or not they might have symptoms of COVID-19. If they do have symptoms, they are asked not to come to work. Manning added that the second staff member who tested positive was not at work when they started to become symptomatic.  

Fighting the coronavirus' spread

“We’re in an area where there’s a lot of community spread happening," Manning said, "We’re doing everything we can to try to prevent it [COVID-19] from coming into the homes.”

"We are working very closely with state and local health officials while continuing with our own steps of restricting visitors, checking residents and staff every day for any unusual symptoms, and following updated CDC infection control guidelines after being informed of positive COVID-19 test cases on several residents and a staff member," a statement from Cedar Ridge Inn sent to The Daily Times read. "Most especially, our thoughts and prayers remain with the loved ones of a former resident with underlying medical conditions who passed away recently from the virus. We will continue to work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of the virus in our center for the well-being and safety of all our residents and staff. We greatly appreciate everyone’s patience and support during this time." 

In a statement sent to The Daily Times, the executive director of Life Care Center of Farmington, Philip Nickse, wrote that the facility's "absolute primary concern is for the health and safety of our residents, facility staff and other care providers. They are on the front line of this unprecedented outbreak. Our staff is trained in proper use of PPEs and are following all relevant guidelines in infection control. They are putting in long hours and heroic efforts to ensure that our patients are receiving the best care and protections."              

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to their friends and loved ones," the statement continues, regarding the deaths of residents at the facility.

The statement goes on to say that all residents and staff members of the facility were re-tested for COVID-19, the results of which they are awaiting.

"The administrators of the Farmington-area nursing homes are communicating with one another on a steady basis to share resources and support among their facilities and the greater Farmington-area region," the statement reads. 

Relatives concerned

After The Daily Times reported that two residents and seven employees at Life Care Center of Farmington tested positive for COVID-19 at the beginning of the month, a relative of a resident at the facility came forward and said they were unable to get in contact with their relative at the facility for four days.     

After The Daily Times sent an email to the facility's corporate headquarters, the family was put in contact with their relative at Life Care Center of Farmington, but weeks later, the family still says getting in contact with their relative can be spotty at times. 

Representatives from Welbrook did not return repeated requests for comments.  

Sam Ribakoff is a visual journalist for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-333-5283 or via email at sribakoff@daily-times.com.

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