MAYVILLE, N.D. —Twenty people have tested positive for COVID-19 at Luther Memorial Home in Mayville, including seven residents and 13 staff. Luther Memorial administrator Brett Ulrich said 318 tests were administered Monday, May 18, and results were received on Tuesday, May 19.
A follow-up test has been scheduled for about two weeks from now, according to Ulrich, who said all 20 people who tested positive are asymptomatic.
"Previously to this, we had built an isolation wing which the health department wanted us to do just in case something like this happened," Ulrich said. "We have those people isolated in a wing and we have dedicated staff working with those people so they don't work anywhere else other than in that particular wing. The people are back there in this isolation wing, and we're doing fine."
The facility has 99 residents and about 200 staff members. With about 1,800 people, Mayville is the largest town in eastern North Dakota's Traill County.
Paul Robinette, whose wife lives in Luther Memorial, said he has been worried about an outbreak in the facility since mid-April.
Under normal circumstances, Robinette said he visits his wife every Sunday. When Luther Memorial suspended visitation, he was unable to continue his regular visits with her — until she told him the home was offering visits through a window, a practice many nursing homes have adopted as a way to allow their residents to see their loved ones.
When he arrived, he said the receptionist directed him around the side of the building to his wife's window. There he found the window cranked open, with a screen separating him from his wife.
"She wasn't wearing a mask. The CNA who opened the window for her wasn't wearing a mask. And I wasn't wearing a mask," Robinette said. "I was expecting just to see her through the glass and talk on the telephone, is what I was expecting, and I thought 'this is not a good idea.'"
In an effort to practice social distancing, Robinette maintained his distance from the window. The next day, he said he called Ulrich to express concern about the window visits. According to Robinette, Ulrich told him he was not aware visits were being conducted this way, and that he would address it. Robinette said that was the last time he was at Luther Memorial, and the last time he spoke with Ulrich.
"And now that I'm hearing about all these positive test results, I'm wondering what, if anything, they actually did about that visiting setup there," he said. "I was quite concerned about it, and I was really worried that not just my wife, but a lot of people there might end up getting sick."
Ulrich said that, while Luther Memorial does offer closed window visitation, at no time did the facility offer open window visitation. After Robinette reached out to express his concern, Ulrich said a memo was sent to Luther Memorial staff members reminding them about the state, federal and facility guidelines not to allow any practices that could allow the spread of COVID-19 in the facility.
"The facility has been locked down since the early part of March," Ulrich said. "We're following all the rules to the mark as far as not allowing visitors in, not allowing vendors in, all of our staff has been wearing masks — we've been following everything."
Prior to the outbreak at Luther Memorial Home, Traill County had reported two cases of COVID-19, one of which was considered active. Wednesday morning, the state Department of Health website shows 20 cases in Traill County. Cases in North Dakota nursing homes have continued to rise, with the state on Wednesday reporting 426 cases in long-term care facilities statewide, up from 377 cases the previous day.