Updated May 20, 2020 - 5:02 pm
The Heights of Summerlin nursing home in Las Vegas registered 16 new resident deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total at the 190-bed facility to 24, or more than one-quarter of all fatalities in state-run or -licensed facilities.
The new fatalities came on top of the eight previously reported, representing a 200 percent increase. That is the most deaths at any state-regulated facility.
The home also has had 133 COVID cases — 76 among residents and 57 staff members — including those that resulted in fatalities, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services’ dashboard on the nvhealthresponse.nv.gov website. It says 61 of those patients have recovered.
The deaths at the facility represent nearly 26 percent of the 93 deaths of residents and staff at the state-regulated institutions, which include assisted living homes, prisons and some day care facilities, according to the data.
In a statement in response to a request for comment, administrator Andrew Reese called the situation at the home “rapidly evolving” and said the virus had gained entry despite a series of precautions that included screening residents three times a day, screening and taking temperatures of staff as they arrive for work and requiring all staff to wear personal protective equipment, implementing visiting restrictions and cancellation of outside medical appointments except when medically necessary.
“Despite all of the preventive steps nursing homes are taking, the virus is still making its way into nursing homes across the nation,” Reese said. “This is a complex virus that is hard to detect, people can be asymptomatic but positive, and the virus can take weeks to present itself. By the time you have a positive test result, many may have already been exposed, no matter what precautions have been taken.
‘Working around the clock’
“… At this time, our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our patients, residents and employees. I can assure you that we are working around the clock, doing everything in our power — and everything medical experts know of at this time — to protect and keep our patients, residents and employees as healthy and as safe as possible.”
In an email, The Heights of Summerlin spokeswoman Lori Mayer said that all but one of the deaths at the nursing home occurred in local hospitals, and that the fact that the deaths were reported on a single day was “a reporting delay due to the fact residents died at the hospital.”
Meanwhile, Shannon Litz, a spokeswoman with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said the agency is in the midst of an active investigation into The Heights of Summerlin but could provide no additional details at this time.
The facility is owned by Summit Care LLC, according to business records on file with the Nevada secretary of state’s office.
The disease caused by the new coronavirus has run roughshod through The Heights of Summerlin since the facility first reported four cases April 13. Nearly half of the residents at the facility have now been infected, the state reported, accounting for more than 13 percent of the total of 1,021 cases reported among staff and residents at the more than 80 facilities regulated by the state.
Despite the rapid spread of the virus, an unknown number of residents are still being housed at the facility at 10550 W. Park Run Drive.
Institutional living facilities that serve seniors are considered particularly at risk from the easily spread virus, which produces only mild to moderate symptoms in most people it infects but can be deadly to the elderly, particularly those with underlying health conditions.
The New York Times reported last week that deaths in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities for older adults accounted for more than one-third of the COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. and 11 percent of its cases.
That rate is higher in some hard-hit states, with nj.com reporting Wednesday that long-term-care facilities in New Jersey have reported more than 40 percent of the state’s 5,368 deaths from the disease. The state-run Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus alone had reported 79 dead and 283 residents testing positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, it said.
Nevada has 66 nursing homes, with 5,842 patients and 7,360 staff members, according to the American Health Care Association, which represents most of the facilities.
The facility with the second-most deaths in the state is Lakeside Health & Wellness Suites in Reno, which has 90 confirmed cases, 20 resident deaths and one death of a staff member.
‘(Nevada) is doing well’
At a legislative health committee meeting Wednesday, Richard Whitley, director for the Department of Health and Human Services, told officials nursing home deaths in Nevada account for about 20 percent of total COVID-19 deaths in the state.
“That is very low compared to other states,” he said. “Many states are at over 50 percent of their deaths occurring in skilled nursing facilities. It does make the individual facilities that have outbreaks stand out even more.”
Whitley said the biggest outbreaks have occurred in nursing homes operated by national health care chains.
In an analysis of the top three causes of the spread of the disease in such facilities, the “No. 1 finding” was the misuse of protective equipment, Whitley said. The other two were breaches in the isolation of patients who are infectious, followed by a lack of hand-washing.
The state has a team made up of health care inspectors and epidemiologists who visit facilities when a case is identified, adding that “there are a couple of facilities in Reno” that did have breaches in infection control.
“They’re going out proactively when they see things in one facility, to try to help the others to prevent … those same breaches of infection control,” Whitley said.
“Overall, the state is doing well, I think. We’re being responsive. We get a team there. We make the corrections.”