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Area nursing home deaths rise from COVID-19 pandemic


By Laura Hayes

and Dan Miller

A combined 19 residents at the Middletown Home and Frey Village have died from causes related to the coronavirus, officials reported Tuesday.

The Middletown Home now has a total of 10 residents who have died where COVID-19 has been identified as "a potential contributing factor" in their deaths, according to Home CEO Louis Vogel III.

Last week, Vogel reported seven residents had died.

At Frey Village, nine residents have died, which is an increase from five last week.

As of Tuesday, Middletown Home has 34 residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus, Vogel said in an email. He said 25 staff members are positive for the virus. Many of them are currently showing no signs or symptoms.

All but one of the 34 cases are in residents of the nursing home component of Middletown Home, also referred to as the health center.

Otherwise, one Independent Living resident has tested positive. She continues to shelter in place in her apartment, Vogel said.

Vogel said the Home has not had any additional new COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks. 

The Home was free of any positive coronavirus cases from mid-March until shortly before the Memorial Day holiday, when the Home experienced an outbreak of COVID-19, according to Vogel.

Any nursing home resident who tests positive for the virus is transferred to a wing of the Home that is restricted to positive COVID-cases, known as the “red zone,” Vogel said.

He added that only “a very small percentage” of the 34 residents who have tested positive for the virus are showing any signs or symptoms.

All Home staff have been tested for the virus, Vogel said Tuesday. Any staff member who refuses to be tested is taken off of the work schedule. All staff who test negative are retested each week.

Many staff members who had tested positive for the virus have returned to work, in accordance with guidelines put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vogel said.

The Home is also gradually moving toward reopening. Starting next week, the Home will be scheduling appointments with all of its families to visit their loved ones.

Family members will have to practice social distancing and wear face masks during these visits, which are to be held in one of the Home’s outside pavilions.

The Home has also invited family members to come to the Home at 6 p.m. July 2 for a meeting under the outside pavilion “to share questions and concerns” and to discuss “safely” reconnecting with the Home and its residents, Vogel said. Social distancing will be practiced during this meeting and those attending will be required to wear face masks.

The Home is also looking forward to resuming its monthly in-person Family Council Meetings starting in July, Vogel said.

Nine more resident cases at Frey

A total of nine residents have died at Frey Village due to COVID-19, staff reported Tuesday morning.

“We grieve the loss of these residents and extend our condolences to their family members and friends,” said Bill Swanger, senior vice president for corporate communications and public relations.

There are 35 active COVID-19 cases in residents at Frey Village. According to Swanger, after staff completed the universal coronavirus testing, they learned about 17 additional resident cases.

One week ago, Diakon was reporting 26 resident cases, and two weeks ago that number was 2.

Frey Village has 16 active cases in staff members, and increase from 11 last week.

Swanger said three staff members have recovered and since returned to work following state and federal guidelines.

Frey Village has been cohorting affected residents in zones in the nursing care center, which is designated for people who test positive.

“This approach is a best practice designed to reduce the possibility of additional spread,” Swanger said.

The staff who care for these residents use higher levels of personal protective equipment. Staff enter and leave in a separate entrance.

Swanger said staff who work in the personal care center also use a separate entrance.

It’s the latest measure that Diakon has adopted in the pandemic.

Diakon has been restricting access to all of its facilities since March. Additionally staff have been treating residents who return to Frey from an outside health care appointment as if they were potentially exposed to the virus and cohorted into a zone.

Other measures include enhanced training and the universal COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.