Inside a deadly outbreak: ‘Everyone was scared’

Nursing home administrator details struggle against virus

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/28/20

Jane Runge has always dressed up for her job as an administrator at the Mountain Vista Senior Living Community in Wheat Ridge. But when the COVID-19 crisis arrived, she started wearing scrubs …

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Inside a deadly outbreak: ‘Everyone was scared’

Nursing home administrator details struggle against virus

Posted

Jane Runge has always dressed up for her job as an administrator at the Mountain Vista Senior Living Community in Wheat Ridge. But when the COVID-19 crisis arrived, she started wearing scrubs instead.

“You never knew what to expect,” said Runge. “We didn’t know if we were going to have staff show up and so for me if it meant cleaning a room, I cleaned a room. It was all hands-on deck.”

Mountain Vista, which includes both assisted living and nursing care facilities, has been the the county’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, with 92 confirmed resident cases and 26 confirmed deaths, according to state data. The disease has also had a major impact on the staff, with 36 confirmed cases and 13 more suspected.

But last week, more than three months after the first case involving a resident of the facility was confirmed, Mountain Vista got some much-needed good news: the state resolved that the assisted-living portion of the facility was COVID-free.

“At this time we are happy to report that Mountain Vista is COVID-19 free,” the facility wrote in its latest COVID-19 statement on its website, which was posted on July 21. “The state of Colorado has given us approval to start social visits for residents in the Assisted Living and we are truly humbled to help reunite you with your loved ones.”

Runge said the nursing side of the facility is also COVID-19 free and she expects the state to clear that side for visits this week.

But while Runge said she and her staff are relieved that the facility’s bout with COVID-19 appears to be over, they aren’t taking any chances.

“We don’t want to back in the building so we have to continue the things we did to help get it out of the building and prevent future cases,” Runge said. “We all know it is still out there.”

Those continuing efforts including following all CDC guidelines, wearing masks and taking each residents’ vitals three times a day in order to check for signs of symptoms. The facility is also developing a COVID-19 unit where any future positive cases can be isolated and an observation neighborhood where all new residents will be isolated for 14 days before moving into the rest of the facility.

Runge said the ability to welcome visitors to the facility is particularly welcome news for the residents who have been isolated not only from friends and family but also from each other since the outbreak began.

“COVID-19 hasn’t been easy but watching people be isolated has been the hardest part,” said Runge. “We’ve actually seen people who I would say they didn’t die of COVID-19, they died of a broken heart. I can tell you there was a resident who got COVID-19 and when she was cut off from her seeing her family who had been doing bible study with her here every day and I have a strong opinion she didn’t die of COVID-19 she did of a broken heart.”

But while it was difficult to keep residents isolated, Runge wrote in a June 25 update that the facility’s staff and residents were thankful for the “overwhelming support” they received during the outbreak.

“We have received many notes and phone calls of encouragement which kept us coming back to work each and every day,” that statement read. “We have also received so many lovely donations such as supplies, food and financial support. Words cannot express how you made a difficult time better for those here at Mountain Vista.”

While Runge and her staff are hoping to turn toward the future, the COVID-19 outbreak is not something they will likely ever forget.

“Everyone was scared, including myself,” she said. “You don’t know what you’re facing. and you just you just come to work and do what you can. There were mornings I was here at 4 a.m. and worked until 10 at night. You just did what you needed to to get the job done.”

But Runge said Mountain Vista’s experience is not one she would like to see anyone have to repeat, which is why she says she is concerned to hear about rising case numbers in Colorado and the country.

“Most nursing homes and assisted livings are started to go into COVID-19 and we are coming out of it,” she said. “But we feel bad for those other homes because we know what it is like.”

Other Jeffco COVID-19 outbreaks

Colorado Academy Sports Camp— Three staff members at a sports camp at Colorado Academy, which is located at 3800 S. Pierce St. The outbreak was discovered on July 3 and is listed as active.

According to Jacque Montgomery, the director of advancement and external affairs at Colorado Academy, the school worked closely with Jefferson County Public Health and closed the campus for three days to follow cleaning directives and canceled all sports camp until Aug. 3. A day camp, which is different from the sports camp, resumed operations on the school on July 9.

Chick-Fil-A — According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, two staff members of a Chick-Fil-A store in Jeffco have tested positive in an outbreak that is still considered active and was identified on July 8. Two people also tested positive at another location in the county but that outbreak is now considered resolved. CDPHE does not list the addresses of specific locations. Outbreaks have been identified at a total of six Chick-Fil-A locations in Colorado.

In response to an email inquiry from Colorado Community Media, Chick-Fil-A, Inc. issued the following statement:

“Our highest priority is the health and well-being of our Team Members and Guests. If a Team Member is diagnosed with COVID-19, the restaurant initiates the response protocol and takes precautionary measures, including disinfecting and deep cleaning the restaurant. Safe service is our top priority and our restaurants continue to follow CDC and local health department guidelines.”

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