The coronavirus has hit the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City like a public health tsunami. Since April 8, 91 of its residents, more than half of its residential population, have tested positive for the virus, and 23 of them have died.
But by Friday, following a second round of virus testing at the home, the number of Nichols residents who tested positive was down to nine.
“This is a significant and promising downward trend,” a Friday news release from the state Department of Veterans Affairs stated. It also added that 12 of the 41 Nichols home employees who had earlier tested positive for the virus had recovered and returned to work.
“We’re working closely with the Alabama Department of Public Health to begin universal testing of all employees and residents at the state’s four veterans homes when resources become available,” the release said. “The universal testing will help the department to identify potential asymptomatic cases, which is critical to preventing and reducing the transmission of the virus among employees and residents.”
Asked via email when resources cited in the news release would become available, Assistant State Veterans Affairs Commissioner Bob Horton said the department was working with the state Department of Public Health “to obtain federal funding for the universal testing of all employees and residents at the four state veterans homes.”
When the coronavirus swept into the state, the state’s four veterans homes housed about 700 veterans, most of them in the age range considered most vulnerable to the virus. While residents have tested positive at Bill Nichols, no residents have tested positive at the Col. Robert L. Howard Home in Pell City, the Floyd E. “Tut” Fann Home in Huntsville, or at the William F. Green Home in Bay Minette. Three employees at Green, however, have tested positive.
Alabama National Guard teams have been conducting disinfection operations at nursing homes around the state, and they have completed those operations at each of the veterans homes.