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Outbreaks: Vulnerable nursing homes need safeguards

Where did we go wrong? What do we need to change to safeguard older West Virginians in nursing homes?

State officials — and, for that matter, anyone with an idea of what the answers may be — need to be coming up with solutions. Our most vulnerable West Virginians need better protection against COVID-19.

A new outbreak was reported Friday at a nursing home in Marmet. There, 23 residents and eight staff members have been stricken.

As of Friday, active outbreaks of COVID-19 were reported at nursing homes in 16 counties. In fact, Calhoun County’s Minnie Hamilton Health System announced an employee has tested positive and will be placed on leave for a minimum of 10 days. It appears as though that facility is following all the protocols as closely as possible.

But the situation is growing worse, not better.

This is not a criticism of what local and state public health officials have already done. In contrast to many other states, ours has done well in protecting nursing home residents.

Clearly, however, something is still missing. Is it nursing home staff not taking the precautionary guidelines seriously when they leave work? Is it disrespectful and defiant people ignoring the guidelines and spreading the virus in a way that makes it difficult for even the most meticulous of those who come in contact with nursing facilities to avoid? What is happening?

We need to find the key to doing better — or more people will die.

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