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Significant outbreaks hit Tabor, Peabody nursing home

Staff writer

Despite an eightfold increase in the number of confirmed cases from the same period a year ago, the extent of the latest outbreak of COVID-19 is only starting to be seen.

According to Kansas Health and Environment statistics, the county had 22 COVID diagnoses between Aug. 26 and Sept. 26, 2020. During the same time this year, 173 people have been diagnosed with COVID.

Last year’s highest spikes occurred as more people began spending more time indoors, between Oct. 13 and Feb. 1.

As of Tuesday, the county health department reported 79 county residents had active cases of COVID. Four were hospitalized, and the total number of deaths confirmed to be caused by COVID notched up to 26.

Among specimens sampled by KDHE, 15 patients tested positive for variant forms of COVID.

The pandemic took a tragic turn with the hospitalization of Marion resident Jenny Craft, who is on a ventilator in intensive care. Craft, who was pregnant, delivered because of the illness.

At Friday’s football game, which her husband, head coach Shaun Craft, was forced to miss, both teams huddled to pray for her recovery.

Among the latest developments evidencing the seriousness of the increase in COVID cases were these:

  • Tabor College on Thursday had 18 students with active cases of COVID-19.

Tabor spokesman Adam Suderman said the college had students who were not able to go home to recover and remained in campus housing.

The college is doing contact tracing to see who was exposed to the sick students. Those students are being kept in separate student housing until they became sick or are cleared.

Students who wanted to attend a dinner, ceremony, or reception Friday celebrating the inauguration of Tabor president David Janzen had to show a vaccination card or be tested for COVID that morning.

Suderman said the college was communicating regularly with the county health department.

  • Peabody Health and Rehab is listed by KDHE as the site of a COVID cluster, with 18 diagnoses in a 14-day period ending Sept. 20. The last onset date among them was Sept. 14.

State records show six Peabody Health and Rehab residents were diagnosed with COVID during the week of Sept. 5 to 12. In all, 14 residents and seven staff members had been diagnosed with COVID by Sept. 12.

State records also show that 85.4% of residents and 62.8% of staff at the nursing home had been vaccinated.

The nursing home has declined all requests for information.

Shane Marler, regional director of business management, said, “I’m not going to have any comment about a private business.”

Reminded that COVID was a public health hazard, Marler said: “I know that, but I’m not going to have any comment.”

Mission Health, owner of Peabody Health and Rehab, did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Goessel’s Bethesda Home has had 38 residents diagnosed with COVID so far and 10 residents have died from it, state records show.

Peabody Health and Rehab and Bethesda Home had the highest diagnoses among the county’s nursing homes. The only other nursing home with a COVID death was Parkside Homes, with one death.

Among staff members at Bethesda, 46 had confirmed cases of COVID — nearly four times as many as the next highest nursing home. The staff member vaccination rate was 60.2% —lowest in the county.

St. Luke Living Center had 12 staff members and nine residents confirmed to have had COVID. At St. Luke, 65.5% of staff and 85.3% of residents had been vaccinated. Nine residents at St. Luke have been diagnosed with COVID.

No nursing home in the county has 66% or more of its staff vaccinated.

At Salem Home in Hillsboro, 100% of residents have been vaccinated, and only one resident has tested positive. With a staff vaccination rate of 62.7%, five staff members have had COVID.

Kansas Press Association lawyer Max Kautsch said nursing homes had an obligation to protect the health of residents.

He said he could imagine a family suing a nursing home for breach of contract if it failed to adequately protect residents.

“It comes down to a social issue,” Kautsch said. “Why go to the trouble of housing people that are dying all around you? Why wouldn’t it be better to provide for those people so they don’t die? It comes down to moral, ethical, and legal.”

Kautsch said he could think of no reason for medical providers not to get vaccinated and is puzzled that families were not filing suits over unvaccinated staff members in nursing homes.

“I could definitely imagine someone bringing a cause of action,” he said.

Instead, lawsuits seem to be headed in an opposing direction, he said.

“People are filing lawsuits against mask mandates,” he said.

Jenny Craft's name was misreported in some earlier editions.

Last modified Oct. 1, 2021

 

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