Resident in Homer assisted living home, previously positive for COVID-19, now tests negative

A resident at an assisted living home in Homer who tested positive for COVID-19 last week has now had an additional two tests which have come back negative.

The resident at Friendship Terrace Assisted Living had been reported positive for the novel coronavirus last Friday. According to a Monday press release from Homer Senior Citizens Inc. Executive Director Keren Kelley, the resident has since had two additional tests, both with negative results. Friendship Terrace is an assisted living home that’s part of Homer Senior Citizens Inc.

The initial test of the resident was done after Homer Senior Citizens received a report on June 10 from Kenai Public Health that a staff member at Friendship Terrace had tested positive. Kenai Public Health helped the Homer Public Health office last week because staff they had been busy with testing of passengers and crew of the M/V Tustumena.

After the first staff member at the living home tested positive last Wednesday, a group of other staff and residents who were identified as close contacts were given tests via a rapid testing machine at South Peninsula Hospital. That process revealed one additional positive staff member.

In a follow-up round of tests of the other residents, the one resident had a positive result.

The daughters of the resident said their 87-year-old mother had been tested on June 10 and they were told of the test results early June 12. Because their mother had other health conditions that needed to be addressed, she was admitted to South Peninsula Hospital on June 13. They said their mother never showed symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever or cough.

To protect the privacy of the Homer News is not publishing the daughters’ names.

When other Friendship Terrace residents tested negative, the daughters said they questioned the test results. They asked for another test, but the mother’s primary care physician at Homer Medical Clinic said it was rare for there to be a false positive. With Kelley also pushing for another test, the mother was retested and had a negative result.

As part of protocol for being admitted to the hospital, the 87-year-old woman was tested again for COVID-19 on June 13. That test also came back negative. That swab was sent to the state laboratory in Anchorage for a retest. The retest also came back negative on June 15. The mother was released from the hospital and is back at Friendship Terrace and in good health, still with no COVID-19 symptoms, their daughters said.

In the Monday press release, Kelley wrote that caregivers have been following heightened infection control protocols, including the use of personal protective equipment.

“We are committed to stopping the spread of this disease,” Kelley wrote. “… Caregivers are working vigilantly to prevent the virus from spreading in our facility.”

Staff have been monitoring residents daily for signs of a fever or cough, Kelley wrote. Anyone who enters the building is screened, and pandemic cleaning protocols are being followed, including wiping down high-touch areas several times daily.

Last week after the staff members and the resident first tested positive, all residents were asked to stay in their apartments. The formerly-positive resident was moved into what Kelley called an “isolation zone.” The 87-year-old woman remains in quarantine, their daughters said. They have been told all residents will be tested every seven days for 14 days and until all tests remain negative.

Additionally, all staff will wear personal protective equipment when interacting with all residents, Kelly wrote. Residents will be asked to wear a mask when receiving assistance, if their health tolerates it.

Homer Senior Citizens Inc. is getting support and guidance from Homer Public Health, South Peninsula Hospital and the state Section of Epidemiology, according to Kelly’s email last week.

“We encourage all community members to remember that the virus is here and that wearing a mask and staying six feet away from people is the best practice to stop the spread,” Kelley wrote. “Our residents and caregivers are relying on the community to support us during these very unprecedented times.”

The daughters of the 87-year-old woman praised Friendship Terrace for keeping COVID-19 out of the home for almost three months. They said they have not seen directly their mother since the lockdown started March 12. They have been able to visit through their mother’s downstairs apartment window and talk over the phone.

“The public doesn’t understand what’s happening in these facilities, what the quality of life is like for those elderly who don’t have much time left,” one daughter said. “… The public need to do what they’re asked: wear masks and social distance so we can end this lockdown. It is the saddest thing you’ll ever see in your lifetime. The public doesn’t get it. We’re not taking your rights away, but look at the rights they’re taking away from this particular age group.”

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