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Minnesota nursing home reports 47 deaths from coronavirus



MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A suburban Minneapolis nursing home said 47 residents have died from complications of COVID-19, the most at any long-term care facility in Minnesota.

St. Therese of New Hope also said Wednesday that 130 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, while 65 staff members have shown symptoms or been exposed.

A veterans home in Massachusetts where 70 people have died is the deadliest known coronavirus outbreak at a long-term care facility in the U.S. At least three care facilities in New York and New Jersey have had more than 50 deaths.

Most of Minnesota’s 343 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus have been in nursing homes. The St. Therese death toll would amount to nearly 15% of the 271 that occurred in nursing homes, according to the Star Tribune’s analysis of death records. KARE-TV, which also analyzed death records, reported that the state’s second-highest number of deaths in a nursing home was 13.

St. Therese, which has a 258-bed capacity, said all residents have been tested. Of those who have tested positive, about one-third were asymptomatic, living with a roommate and unknowingly spread the virus.

“This has been devastating to a community that prides itself on providing quality, loving care,” St. Therese President and CEO Barb Rode said in a statement. She said the disease spread rapidly at the facility, which has two residents per room and four sharing a bathroom.

The first resident tested positive April 5, and the first two deaths were the next day. All residents testing positive moved into one unit to prevent more infections, Rode said.

Some family members have complained they weren’t advised of problems quickly enough.

“We were kept completely in the dark until it was too late to act,” Holly Doughty, of Mendota Heights, whose 95-year-old mother lives at St. Therese, told the Star Tribune.

Doughty said she first asked about the coronavirus during a conference call with St. Therese staff on April 7, and was reassured the facility was taking precautions. She said no one mentioned positive cases or deaths. She said family members were unable to reach their mother, who has severe dementia and can’t answer the phone, after that. Doughty said St. Therese staff didn’t return numerous calls.

Doughty is now waiting to hear whether her mother has the virus.

Rode said reports that the outbreak was hidden or that care was substandard are “unfair and untrue.” She said families, guardians and responsible physicians were informed as soon as positive test results were received, and were advised of “the massive movements” within the facility.

Rode’s statement said the Minnesota Department of Health audited the facility twice since March 31 and it was found to be in compliance with its license. Spokesman Doug Schultz confirmed that the agency has been on site making recommendations.

In 2016, state Health Department investigators found that an 85-year-old resident of St. Therese was repeatedly punched in the face and stomach and that another elderly resident had a bath towel thrown in her face. Video showed other employees talking on their personal cellphones rather than providing care, the Star Tribune reported.

Federal authorities fined St. Therese $19,500 in 2018 after a resident’s bed was placed too close to a heater and the resident suffered a second-degree burn. Records show the nursing home responded by removing beds from baseboard heaters and training staff on the safe way to position beds.

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