As cases spike across Ohio, coronavirus outbreak reported at Wayside Farm

Emily Mills
Akron Beacon Journal

As coronavirus cases continue to spike locally and across Ohio, a Cuyahoga Falls long-term care facility is experiencing dozens of cases of COVID-19, according to a state database of long-term care facilities with cases.

The state database, which is updated weekly on Wednesdays, shows Wayside Farm Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has 61 current week resident cases, with 77 cumulative resident cases, and 10 current week staff cases, with 19 cumulative staff cases.

In an emailed response to questions from the Beacon Journal, Wayside Farm administrator Matthew Pool confirmed the numbers and said there has been one resident death.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.

"The numbers certainly provide insight to the data but the overall COVID response is challenging all of our healthcare communities," Pool said. "We are all facing the challenges of COVID entering our communities."

The state defines current case counts as residents or staff with active COVID-19 infection during the prior week, Wednesday through Tuesday. Cumulative counts are residents or staff with active COVID-19 infection at any point starting April 15, which is when the database began.

Wayside Farm, a family-owned and operated nursing home in operation since 1968 that specializes in caring for mentally ill or behavioral residents, has 92 current residents and 110 staff members. Pool said the resident population ranges from 31 to 86 years old, with an average age of 55 years old.

Pool said the completely-locked facility is "not your typical nursing home" and said it has "a very structured environment that is designed to provide a lot of life enrichment coupled with behavior modification and medication management."

Pool said the facility had its first reported positive case on Oct. 5, and all residents and staff were rapid-tested that day, with five residents and five staff then testing positive. The five residents were quarantined on an isolation hallway, and the staff were removed from working.

“We had gone the entire year without a case of COVID being in our building,” Pool said. “We are so proud of our team with all that they have accomplished this year and making it as long as we did without COVID. Our team deserves a lot of compliments for their hard-work."

Pool said it was learned several staff members came into contact with a COVID-positive person outside of work. The exposed employees were immediately removed from work, and steps were taken to manage the potential exposure.

Pool said the employees didn't realize they had been exposed until multiple days later, when they received confirmation of a community positive COVID-19 result.

"We knew that the only way COVID was going to come into the building was if it was brought in from the community," he said.

Pool said the delay in getting test results continues to make for a more challenging situation for everyone.

"It is difficult to manage these moments when we are waiting 3 to 7 days for test results," he said.

Wayside Farm initially started with quarantining and isolation on one unit, Pool said. It also set up a unit for observation for either signs or symptoms associated with COVID-19 or previously being in a room or close contact with a positive resident.

Pool said when the number of positive cases increased, staff had to identify all the areas of exposure, quarantine positive cases together and keep residents who don't have COVID-19 separate.

All positive residents have been put into isolation or are cohorting with other positive COVID residents, and all positive staff have been removed from working, Pool said.

“This has required many room changes for our residents and has been challenging for their normal routines,” he said.

Residents and staff are being tested two times per week. Any resident or staff member who has tested positive is not being tested for 12 weeks from their positive test date, as directed by Summit County Public Health and the Ohio Department of Health, Pool said.

Residents are being monitored daily on any changes in condition, and staff are being screened daily for any signs of symptoms. Pool said Wayside Farm has also hired cleaning companies to come in twice a week to sanitize the building, on top of the facility's daily sanitizing and disinfecting.

Residents have been given masks, and staff members have the necessary personal protective equipment and make frequent rounds for hand sanitation.

Pool noted Wayside Farm received substantial compliance on its infection control inspection completed Oct. 15 by the Ohio Department of Health.

Pool said Wayside Farm appreciates the support and kind messages it's received from the community and said he's proud of his team’s response to the outbreak.

"Our resident spirits have remained good and we look forward to when this will be a thing of the past. This is [an] extremely challenging time for all of us and our families," he said. "We appreciate all the people in healthcare who are working tirelessly providing the care to their patients. We hope people will take a moment to understand the entire perspective from all sides of the story before jumping to judgement."

The state and public health officials have emphasized that a facility having COVID-19 cases doesn’t mean the facility isn’t following proper procedures.

Public health officials have also said the virus can spread quickly in congregate living settings like long-term care facilities, whose residents — older adults and those with underlying conditions — are already particularly susceptible.

The high number of cases at Wayside Farm comes as Summit County remains at Level 3 (red) in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, indicating there’s there's very high exposure and spread of COVID-19. Cases are continuing to spike locally, in Ohio and across much of the country.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reported 2,425 new cases on Thursday, the highest number of cases ever reported on a single day. Of the 10 highest days of new cases reported, eight have occurred in the past nine days, and nine have occurred in the month of October, he said.

A total of 54 long-term care facilities in Summit County are listed in the state database as currently or previously having COVID-19 cases among residents or staff since the database began in April. To view the list, visit https://tinyurl.com/y4ndl69s

Wayside Farm is one of three long-term care facilities in Summit County not currently doing in-person visitation, according to another state database released this week showing the types of visitation long-term care facilities are allowing and when visits are permitted.

Of 63 registered nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Summit County, most are offering some form of in-person visitation and doing a combination of indoor, outdoor or window visits: 70% are doing indoor visitation, 52% are doing outdoor visitation and 81% are doing window visitation.

Wayside Farm, Bath Creek Estates in Cuyahoga Falls and Brentwood Healthcare Center in Sagamore Hills Township aren't doing any in-person visitation, according to the database.

Pool said that throughout the pandemic, Wayside Farm has been offering visitation via phone calls and video calls. The facility uses tablets and has also been purchasing TracFones for residents to use.

The facility was doing outdoor in-person visitation and had planned to move to indoor visitation Oct. 12, the first day facilities were allowed to permit indoor visitation.

"We were planning on changing our visitation as our COVID outbreak was in a more manageable place," Pool said. "We have had an outbreak of COVID, which has changed our previous visitation parameters. Ensuring the safety, care and treatment of our residents is our top priority."

According to the state COVID-19 database, Bath Creek Estates has 14 current week resident cases, with 43 cumulative resident cases, and eight current week staff cases, with 11 cumulative staff cases.

The facility's corporate owner, Saber Healthcare Group, planned to send an emailed statement to the Beacon Journal on Thursday, but it wasn't received by press time.

The database shows Brentwood Healthcare Center has one current week resident case, with 61 cumulative resident cases, and two current week staff cases, with 12 cumulative staff cases.

A message was left seeking comment with Brentwood Healthcare Center.

Contact Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills at emills@thebeaconjournal.com or on Twitter @EmilyMills818.