Updated 4:25 p.m.: A resident of Denali Center, a long-term care facility in Fairbanks, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an announcement Saturday from Foundation Health Partners, which operates the facility.
Foundation Health Partners also operates Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, at which two employees tested positive, and Tanana Valley Clinic.
The Denali Center patient is a woman over the age of 80. Foundation Health officials and the state Section of Epidemiology believe she became infected after having contact with a health care employee who later tested positive for COVID-19.
“As soon as we learned of the staff member’s positive result, the resident was tested and appropriate infection control measures were performed,” said Dr. Daniel McCulley, Denali Center’s medical director, at a Saturday afternoon news conference.
The resident, who remains in isolation, was tested on March 25 and at the time had only mild symptoms of a low-grade temperature that did not meet the criteria of a fever, McCulley said.
“At this time she remains in at the Denali Center and she is still only mildly symptomatic,” he said, adding that he saw her at about noon Saturday and that “again, her only symptoms are a low-grade temperature and a little bit of a decreased appetite.”
“We do know that COVID-19 can progress very quickly, so we’re keeping her at Denali Center and monitoring her very closely in case her health starts to decline,” he said.
Testing of residents and staff was to begin Saturday, with some results expected back Saturday night. Additional testing is to occur next week.
“At this time we have sufficient test kits to perform the testing for all the Denali Center residents as well as the staff and to continue our current protocols at the drive-thru center,” said Dr. Angelique Ramirez, medical director of quality for Foundation Health Partners.
Denali Center has 75 residents, with a capacity of 90. Current residents range in age from 20 to 99, with some having been at the center for several years. The center has a staff of 135.
“The Denali Center is the home of these residents,” Foundation Health Partners CEO Shelley Ebenal said at the news conference. “We consider these residents as part of our family. And this is particularly true for the staff. The staff considers them family, and it’s just like being told one of your family members have this COVID disease.
“They will take excellent care of the residents as they always have, but this is gut-wrenching news for them,” she said.
In addition to the testing of residents and staff, several other actions were taken at the center, according to those at the news conference.
• All staff providing direct patient care are required to wear full protection, which consists of eye protection and the wearing of a gown, mask, gloves and face shield.
• All residents must wear a face mask.
• All residents have been placed be in self-isolation for 14 days per CDC guidelines
• The center will undergo a disinfecting procedure that involves removing all detachable items in a room for disinfection and disinfecting light fixtures, air ducts and all surfaces from the ceiling to the floor.
The center, according to the news release, has for two months kept residents apart and prohibited visitors from entering the building.
The infection-control measures are a major change for residents, said Denali Center Administrator Liz Woodyard, who is also chief of clinical services at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and Denali Center.
“It’s very, very difficult to convey my heart-wrenching emotions and feelings with this about the impact this has on the residents and staff,” she said. “This is really a disruptive change in how they live.”
“Having these changes is very hard for our residents. Many have memory problems, have dementia,” she said. “We love our residents. We are part of their lives, they are part of our lives.”
Contact Editor Rod Boyce at 459-7585. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMeditor.