Tri-County COVID Outbreak
By Barry Dalton
VANDALIA—Former Vandalia Alderman Dempsey Eugene Dixon, 78, died of COVID-19 complications at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital on Sept. 2 after being transferred there from the Tri-County County Care Center (TCCC) in Vandalia on Aug. 19.
“He had underlying health issues, and that’s why he died, because he couldn’t fight the COVID with everything else he had going on,” said his wife, Gene Ann Dixon, 72, who has served on the TCCC board of directors for 40 years.
Dempsey had first gone to the VA hospital in mid July with health issues, according to his wife, Gene Ann. About a week later, on or about July 22, the hospital released him to TCCC to rehab, she said. He did not have COVID-19 when he left the VA hospital. Unfortunately, he developed breathing problems the day before he had been scheduled to leave TCCC and return home. Dempsey was not a permanent resident there.
“The ambulance took him to the SSM Health [St. Mary’s Hospital – Audrain] in Mexico and SSM sent him to the VA the same day,” Gene Ann said. “The VA had sent him [to TCCC] to rehab. They test them when they go into the VA and they test them before they come out, which was really a requirement of Tri-County.”
Even though Dempsey had tested negative for COVID-19 before coming to TCCC, he was still placed in quarantine as a precautionary measure. He remained in quarantine for about 16 days before being released into the general “population on the third hall,” his wife said. He was permitted to go to the dining room and participate in other activities.
The Dixons have a family member currently residing at TCCC and relatives who work there. Although Gene Ann said she knows it is permitted by the state, she questions the rationale behind allowing asymptomatic staff to work at the facility while being positive for COVID-19. See TCCC’s news release on Page 2 of this issue.
“That’s what I don’t understand myself,” she said. “Because they’re saying they will send the workers that have COVID to the COVID wings to work. So how do you get well, especially if you have underlying health problems?”
Megan Elledge, the director of TCCC, confirmed via text message that TCCC had been given permission by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to allow workers who test positive to return to work as long as they are asymptomatic.
“The health department did allow us to work asymptomatic staff on our positive resident COVID wing,” Elledge texted.
Although Elledge declined to elaborate, the Center for Disease Control stated on its website that it has sanctioned the practice as a way to make up for staff shortages in patient care facilities.
“We follow all guidance and regulations from the county health department and DHSS,” Elledge wrote.
Elledge had originally posted information about the positive COVID test at TCCC on her personal Facebook page on Aug. 20, writing: “Tri-County Care Center has a resident who has had the rapid COVID-19 test, is in the hospital and tested positive.”
Elledge also stated, “[W]e will now be testing all staff and residents.”
It wasn’t until after Dempsey’s death, however, that the Audrain County Health Department publicly announced COVID-19 was found at TCCC.
“[T]here has been an outbreak of COVID-19,” the health department’s Sept. 3 press release noted. “Forty-two of the active cases reported today are associated with Tri-County Nursing Home; 24 residents and 18 staff to date.”
On Sept. 4, TCCC also confirmed the outbreak in a news release and updated the number of patients and staff who had tested positive. The release stated:
“Tri-County Care Center has been diligently testing residents and staff after their first positive COVID-19 test. Their fourth round of testing occurred today at the facility and results should be returned Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020. Currently, 27 residents and 25 staff have tested positive for COVID-19, with the majority being asymptomatic. All positive patients have been separated in a private wing and are being closely monitored for symptoms. No COVID-19 positive residents have had the need to be transferred to a hospital at this time.”
Elledge noted on her Facebook account that the center’s staff members are using personal protective equipment (PPE). Eldridge also announced on her Facebook that visititations using the Plexiglas booth have been canceled.
“I can assure you this virus is everywhere you go, and the staff at TCCC has done the best they can, wearing PPE and are working an unbelievable amount of hours to care for the residents,” Elledge wrote.
Tay Wheeler, Dempsey’s niece, says she is concerned for her family members who work or stay at the center.
“I can’t sleep at night wondering what ifs,” Wheeler stated.
Gene Ann, said she’s taking everything day by day and takes solace knowing that everybody loved her husband.
“Everybody loved him; that’s for sure,” Gene Ann said. “Everybody from here, there and everywhere loved Dempsey. He was a well thought of person, that’s for sure.”
“He was decorated at every job,” added Wheeler. “He was a veteran. Uncle Dempsey was a great man. He was generous, very kind and hardworking. He was a strong man, and even when his health tried to get him down, he [had] always fought and got better.”
Born on Jan. 20, 1942, in Vandalia, Dempsey had served as a deputy for the Audrain County Sheriff’s Department, a police officer for the Vandalia Police Department, an EMT for the Van-Far Ambulance District and as an alderman for the City of Vandalia. He retired from Harbison-Walker in 2012.
Dempsey Eugene Dixon Sr., 78, of Vandalia, Mo., died at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, Mo.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, at the Waters Funeral Home in Vandalia. Rev. Melvin McCaleb will officiate. Burial with full military honors will be in the Vandalia Cemetery following the service.
A visitation celebrating the life of Dempsey Eugene Dixon Sr. will be held from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, at the Waters Funeral Home.
Dempsey was born Jan. 20, 1942, in Vandalia, Mo., the son of Thomas Charles and Nonie Marie (Wilson) Dixon.
He was united in marriage to Gene Ann Redd Sept. 1, 1973 in Clarksville, Mo. She survives him of the home.
Other survivors include two sons, Dempsey Dixon Jr., of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Richard Damon Redd, of Bonne Terre, Mo.; three daughters, Jolene Ann Dixon, of Vandalia, Melissa Jean Redd, of Vandalia, Nikki Lee, of Fulton, Mo.; one brother, Walter Dixon, of Vandalia; two sisters, Dorothy (Herman) Miles, of Columbia, Mo., Aisha Abdelnassar, of Kansas City, Mo.; three brothers-in-law, James Wheeler, of Vandalia, Harold Wheeler, of Davenport, Iowa, Christopher (Teresa) Redd, of Springfield, Ill.; two sisters-in-law, Daisy (Frank) Warren, of Clarksville, Mo., Fannie (Billy) Carter, of Davenport, Iowa; five grandchildren, Ciarria (Jeffrey) Underwood, of Troy, Mo., Jaselle Brookins, of Vandalia, Danasia Pittman, of Fulton, Mo., Daniel Pittman of Fulton, Mo., Danniqua Pittmann of Arizona; 10 great grandchildren and many more loved nieces, nephews, family and friends.
His parents; brothers, Maurice Dixon, Harold Dixon, Donald Dixon, Robert Dixon; infant brother, Charles Dixon, and granddaughter, Menisha Thomas, all died earlier.
Dempsey attended the Lincoln School and Vandalia High School before going to proudly serve his country in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1969. Dempsey was active in his community and loved serving people. He served as a deputy for the Audrain County Sheriff’s Department, a police officer for the Vandalia Police Department, a EMT for the Van-Far Ambulance District and an alderman for the City of Vandalia. Dempsey worked for Harbison Walker International Refractory in Vandalia retiring in 2012. While employed there, he served as the president of the employees union.
He was a member of Second Christian Church in Vandalia and loved his church family. He proudly served the church as a past Deacon and Vice President of the congregation. Dempsey enjoyed fishing, hunting and building furniture. His family and friends were his biggest love in life.
Pallbearers will be Dometric Wheeler, David Davis, Decarlo (Boney) Hutt, William (Billy) Wheeler, Rodney Ferguson, Wendell Wheeler, Jeffery Underwood.
Honorary pallbearers are William Wheeler Sr., Ronnie Greene, Christopher Redd, Jamie Wheeler, Marvin Davis, Calvin Miles.
Memorial contributions may be made to Waters Funeral Home to assist the family with funeral expenses.
Online condolences may be made to the family and video tribute viewed on Dempsey memorial page at www.watersfuneral.com.