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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Nursing homes respond to spread

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A shopper is stocking up on bathroom tissue at the Super Target at Memorial and Penn., Friday, March 13, 2020.  [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]
A shopper is stocking up on bathroom tissue at the Super Target at Memorial and Penn., Friday, March 13, 2020. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Oklahoma are adjusting visitation hours, stepping up cleaning efforts and stockpiling hygiene products in response to the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus that first appeared in Wuhan, China.

“We are actively engaged with our partners at the state Department of Health and our facilities are doing their best to be prepared,” said Steven Buck, president and CEO of Care Providers Oklahoma, which represents the interests of professionals who work in long-term care facilities and nursing homes.

Because of the close concentration of their populations and the client base — older adults who often have chronic medical conditions — nursing homes are at the highest risk of being impacted by COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC has issued a host of recommendations for nursing homes throughout the United States. Those include restricting visitations, educating staff and residents about COVID-19, reinforcing sick leave policies and reminding workers to stay home if they are sick.

The CDC also recommends nursing homes place hand sanitizer in every resident’s room and in common areas; ensure that sinks are well-stocked with soap and paper towels for hand washing; and provide tissues and face masks for people with a cough.

Nursing homes should also regularly monitor staff for fever and symptoms and respiratory infection, the CDC says. Plans should be made for staffing shortages. Group activities should be limited.

In Oklahoma, nursing home licensing requires infection prevention training.

“Some facilities are closing visitations,” said Jamie Dukes, spokeswoman for the state Health Department. “It may be a case per case basis out of every facility.”

The Diakonos Group, which operates several nursing and rehabilitation facilities throughout Oklahoma, announced on its website this week that they are “halting all non-medically necessary visitation effective immediately.”

The care provider says its facilities employ nearly 1,000 caregivers that serve roughly 950 residents, patients and guests.

Diakonos said FaceTime and Skype visits remain available and they are working on other options to keep families connected with their loved ones.

In a Thursday post on its website, Diakanos said “we deeply regret having to take such assertive measures but safety of those we care for must come first.”

Josh Dulaney

Josh Dulaney joined The Oklahoman in November 2016. Dulaney is a California Newspaper Publishers Association award winner for his writing. In both 2018 and 2019 he earned newspaper writer of the year honors from the Great Plains Journalism Awards. Read more ›

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