Two residents of one of the state’s four veterans homes have died after testing positive for the COVID-19, the state Department of Veterans Affairs stated this morning.
The two veterans, 89 and 99 years of age, were among 25 residents who have tested positive for the virus at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City. In addition, 18 employees at the Nichols home also have tested positive for the virus, as have two employees at the William F. Green State Veterans Home in Bay Minette.
“The two residents who passed away … had co-existing medical conditions,” Assistant State Veterans Affairs Commissioner Bob Horton said in an email. “A formal report is pending for the exact cause of death.”
Horton said the department had “no plans to release the names of the deceased veterans to protect the privacy of the families.”
“We want to assure the families of those veterans entrusted in our care, and to the communities, that our professional and dedicated staff at the state veterans homes are following all necessary precautionary measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus by screening and testing residents and employees,” Veterans Affairs Commissioner Kent Davis said in a statement.
All of the residents at the veterans homes who have tested positive are now isolated from the rest of the population “for further care and treatment,” the veterans affairs department said. “Employees who exhibit symptoms of the virus are prohibited entry into the facility.”
The deaths at Nichols came several days after a 77-year-old resident at the home tested positive for COVID-19. In late March, an employee at the home, who had not been at the facility for several days, had tested positive.
The Nichols home has 150 residents and about 200 employees. Overall about 700 veterans are housed in the state’s four veterans homes.
Since mid-March, the veterans affairs department and Health Management Resources, the firm that staffs each of 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.
Horton has said employees at the homes “are screened daily for fever and other symptoms related to the cold and flu when reporting for work.”
Asked by email why, despite the restrictive measures put in place at the homes, there has been an increase in those testing positive for covid-19, Horton replied, “Increased testing has revealed more positive cases.”
Besides the Nichols and Green facilities, Alabama has two other veterans homes – one in Pell City and another in Huntsville. Most of the veterans living at the homes range in age 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.