Confirmed COVID-19 Case in Veterans Home

Bill Nichols State Veterans Home (Source: Health Management Resources)

About 700 veterans live in the state’s four veterans homes, and one of them has now tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

“Currently, the veteran’s symptoms are improving and the veteran continues to be cared for in isolation,” the state Department of Veterans Affairs stated today in a news release.

The veteran who tested positive is 77 years old and lives at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City. Late last month, one of the Nichols home’s employees tested positive for COVID-19. The employee had not been at the facility for several days and the veterans affairs department said the employee was recuperating at home.

The Nichols home has 150 residents and about 200 employees. The veteran who tested positive for Covid-19 had “exhibited mild symptoms,” then underwent further testing, the department stated.

Since mid-March, the veterans affairs department and Health Management Resources, the firm that staffs the veterans homes, have restricted visits to each facility. Under the restrictive policy, the homes allow only visits deemed “medically-necessary … by outside healthcare personnel and/or visits by family members to terminally ill residents in their final days.” In addition, all “routine visits by non-employees” are off limits.

In an earlier email, Assistant Alabama Veterans Affairs Commissioner Bob Horton said employees at the homes “are screened daily for fever and other symptoms related to the cold and flu when reporting for work.”

Scott Hurst, HMR’s regional vice president of operations for Alabama, said earlier today that a facility’s response to a case of COVID-19 includes isolating the veteran from the rest of the home’s population and assigning a team of caregivers, consisting of nurses and certified nursing assistants, to treat his illness. “The affected veteran would be the only one they would take care of,” Hurst said.

“Our objective is to limit their interaction with any other staff and any other residents … and that (is) why they would be assigned to that person, specifically,” Hurst said.

Besides the Nichols facility, Alabama has three other veterans homes – one in Pell City, another in Huntsville and another in Bay Minette. Most of the veterans living at the homes range from 70 to 99 years old. According to the World Health Organization, those over 60 years of age “are at a higher risk of getting severe COVID-19 disease.”

More than 900 Health Management Resources employees work at the four veterans homes.

Alabama has a population of about 400,000 veterans.

Meanwhile, 31 residents and staff members at nursing homes that are part of the Alabama Nursing Home Association also have COVID-19, according to a Monday statement on the association website.

The statement, from Association President and CEO Brandon Farmer, said the cases come from 17 counties, urban and rural. “These nursing homes are following the reporting guidelines and implementing isolation procedures,” he said in the statement.

WBRC also reported Wednesday night that the Columbiana Health and Rehabilitation Center in Columbiana had reported more than two dozen residents and seven staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus. However, only two of the residents were showing symptoms.