Michigan nursing homes unprepared for COVID-19 outbreak, officials say

Officials concerned by dishonest reporting of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes

DETROIT – Experts are drawing attention to nursing homes as potential coronavirus (COVID-19) hotspots as the pandemic evolves.

MORE: Tracking coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in nursing homes around Metro Detroit

Just as other hospitals and medical centers around the state, nursing home workers are experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Andrea Acevedo, President of SEIU Healthcare Michigan, says workers are reusing masks for up to seven days, when they should be disposed of after one use.

As the problem worsens, SEIU officials have been delivering gloves and masks to employees at nursing homes. Acevedo says the union, which represents more than 5,000 nursing home workers, has donated 10,000 masks and 10,000 gloves to southeast Detroit nursing homes amid the shortages.

However, according to Acevedo, the real concern is the reporting of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes -- or the lack thereof.

Acevedo tells Local 4 Defenders that she believes some nursing homes are choosing not to report COVID-19 cases to their employees or the public, putting everyone in danger. She also says workers might be unknowingly exposed to the virus and continue working for days before they are notified of the threat by the health department.

Acevedo says that Detroit’s initiative to test all nursing home staff and residents for COVID-19 is commendable; however the results may only further prove that facilities across the state are not prepared with enough PPE.

SEIU believes providing PPE should be a priority, and COVID-19 testing and treatment costs for employees should be paid for by the employer.

As the outbreak threatens vulnerable nursing homes, Acevedo says levels of anxiety and depression among nursing home workers are skyrocketing. She is glad that the state is now demanding nursing homes to report their COVID-19 cases, so workers and residents can stay informed and safe amid the pandemic.

MORE: ‘We have a crisis’: 35% of Detroit nursing home resident tests are positive for COVID-19

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How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • Spread is possible before people show symptoms. People who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus and can still pass it on to other people.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention and Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Click here for more guidelines from the CDC.

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Question about coronavirus? Ask Dr. McGeorge here.

Read more about coronavirus here.

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