Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Chosen Healthcare considered designating Washington Nursing Center as a COVID-19 only facility, but residents were returned to their original facility on April 6th.
GREENE COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – In Indiana, recent data shows that over a fourth of the state’s COVID-19 deaths happen at long-term care facilities, but an order signed by Indiana’s top health official aims to protect residents at such facilities.
Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box recently signed an order allowing long-term care facilities to transport residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This order is intended to allow facilities that already have COVID positive patients to take others who have the same status so they can be cared for in a way that best serves our residents,” Box said.
The order also allows residents who are not COVID-19 positive to be moved to a facility where there is a decreased health risk.
The decision comes as on Wednesday, Box reported that long-term care facilities make up around seven percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases but are responsible for over 25 percent of Indiana’s COVID-19 related deaths.
“It’s devastating to see the number of individuals in their facilities that are ill with this disease and then sometimes lose their lives to this disease,” Box said.
In Linton, long-term care facility Glenburn Home announced that nine residents and seven employees are COVID-19 positive with three deaths.
The Greene County health administration says the order will assist that facility.
“That order came just in time to allow us to cohort patients, to separate patients, who were positive from patients that were symptomatic,” said Shari Lewis, Greene County health administrator.
Lewis says she believes the order is necessary to protect those who are most at risk.
“We know that long-term care facilities have some of the most vulnerable patients we have during this COVID-19 crisis and so doing that was definitely a step in the right direction,” Lewis said.
Dr. Box says for a facility to only host COVID-19 patients the decision must be made with input from local hospitals, local health officials, local public officials and the Indiana State Department of Health.