The toll from the October outbreak of COVID-19 at The William Breman Jewish Home stands at 46 residents testing positive, six deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, and 16 positive tests among staff.
Those numbers, sent Oct. 29 to staff and families of residents by Gerri Cooper, the Breman Home’s executive director, add up to roughly three-quarters of the residents of the skilled nursing facility operated by Jewish HomeLife.
The situation “is a nightmare, a real nightmare,” Miriam Karp, whose 91-year-old mother Hazel Karp is one of those who tested positive, told the AJT.
The six deaths in October, when added to five deaths in April and May linked to COVID-19, add up to 11 at the Breman Home since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic early in 2020.
Cooper wrote on Oct. 29: “Our current count is 31 positive residents in house and 14 positive team members isolating at home. The other positive residents are either currently in the hospital or have been discharged.” Among those testing positive, who were retested after 10 to 14 days, one resident and two staff members tested negative. There have been no new positive test results since Oct. 24, Cooper said.
As to the origin of the October outbreak, Jewish HomeLife spokeswoman Shari Bayer said, “Through our contact tracing” done in conjunction with the Fulton County Board of Health, “we believe we have identified the probable source(s).” But Bayer did not specify those sources.
Over the course of the pandemic, the Breman Home has registered 57 positive tests among residents, according to records kept by the Georgia Department of Community Health, which tracks COVID-19 activity in long-term care facilities.
As of Oct. 29, the 96-bed Breman Home had 59 residents. The facility on Howell Mill Road in Atlanta “stopped taking new rehab and long-term care residents as soon as we found our first resident case,” Bayer said.
The positive tests among staff has forced Jewish HomeLife to tap The One Group, a part of JHL that provides home care, as well as outside agencies, “to make sure that we have the necessary clinical staff to maintain continuity of care,” Cooper wrote in an Oct. 23 note to families.
Bayer said that supplemental staffing would include nurses (LPN and RN) and certified nursing assistants (CNA). “We want to reassure the community that any temporary staff used is qualified and experienced in caring for seniors,” Bayer said. When fully staffed, the Breman Home has about 100 employees.
The fourth and fifth floors of the Breman Home now are occupied by residents testing positive, while those testing negative are concentrated on the second and third floors. “My team and I worked throughout the night contacting families, cleaning rooms, elevators and common areas before and after moving residents, and creating a larger quarantine area,” Cooper wrote Oct. 23.
Concerned about the welfare of her mother, who tested positive for COVID-19, Jayne Seckinger stood outside the Berman Home on Oct. 26 holding a sign that read “Frieda Needs Help.” Frieda Smith, 89, has been a resident at the Berman Home since July 2019.
Seckinger was moved to hold the sign after a cellphone video call that day done by a private nurse’s assistant that she hired to sit with her mother for several hours daily. Seckinger said that during the call her mother could not lift her head or open her eyes and appeared to be declining rapidly. The sign got attention and Smith improved after receiving a sports drink with electrolytes and a nutritional drink with protein, her daughter said.
In talking to the AJT, Seckinger stressed that “I love the Jewish home. It is Atlanta’s beloved Jewish home.”
She expressed her admiration for the nurses and CNAs who work the rehabilitation unit where her mother was located for several months. “I fear for her with pneumonia and from laying on her back and the staff is completely overwhelmed.”
Karp’s mother has been a resident of the Breman Home for four years. Her daughter was informed on Oct. 18 that her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, was tested on Oct. 15 and that the result was positive. “I’m very, very worried. I don’t know how my mother has come through this,” Karp told the AJT. “I’m anxious all the time. I’m terribly anxious.”
In her Oct. 23 note to families, Cooper said that the state/federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services inspectors “arrived unannounced on Wednesday [Oct. 21] for an infection control inspection. Inspectors were here for the entire day and examined all facets of The Home’s operations and protocols from written policies, proper use and supply of PPE, food service, cleaning protocols, resident care and documentation, training and so much more. They found zero deficiencies.”
The last inspection report of the Breman Home found on the CMS website was from February 2019. “We have had four inspections since then that were specific infection control inspections related to the pandemic from both the state/CMS and Fulton County Health Department,” Bayer said.
In a statement issued Oct. 21, JHL CEO Harley Tabak reviewed the challenges JHL faces at the facilities that the agency operates at three Atlanta area sites, as well as the home care services that it provides. “Once COVID enters the environment, it can spread quickly before even the first symptom is identified. As a nursing home, we must always balance critical infection prevention protocols with our employees’ own personal lives, with a hospital’s need to release rehab patients regardless of COVID status, and our residents’ psycho-social needs of seeing their loved ones,” Tabak said.