By Barry Dalton
VANDALIA—The third COVID-related death reported in Audrain County by the Audrain County Health Department (ACHD) on Sept. 11 was associated with the Tri-County Care Center, confirmed ACHD Administrator Dr. Sandra Hewlett, today.
“We announced that death, but we could see more of those everywhere,” Hewlett said. “Right now it’s mostly older people, and unfortunately when you’re in a nursing home and you’re older it does put them at higher risk because they have many other medical conditions. So it makes it much harder to recover when that’s the case.”
Hewlett said that the outbreak at TCCC was most likely started by an asymptomatic staff member who had not been tested yet and did not know they were COVID-19 positive.
“That’s the rub across the country. There’s nothing unique there,” Hewlett explained. “That’s how this happens. We have facilities that have a critical staffing crisis and they are all essential and critical workforce.”
This is why the coronavirus is called a novel virus, Hewlett noted.
“The degree that somebody is asymptomatic or not and how it affects transmission, that’s the data the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] doesn’t have yet in total,” Hewlett added. “There’s a lot of different opinions depending on which medical professional or group you’re talking to, so I think we still have a lot to learn.”
Hewlett said the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) sets policies related to long-term care facilities not the county, and that the state does permit asymptomatic COVID-19 positive staff to work with COVID-19 positive residents at a nursing home.
“[The state] works hand in hand with that nursing home,” Hewlett said. “That is a policy not of the [Audrain] health department but of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.”
Hewlett pointed out that critical workers are quarantined at home when not at work and that their families are under quarantine, as well.
“They’re not supposed to be going to supermarkets,” Hewlett said. “It only allows them to go from work to home.”
Hewlett also said that some of the COVID-19 positive staff members at TCCC recovered last week.
Last week, the Leader reported on the county’s second COVID-related death at TCCC. 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 TCCC on Aug. 19.