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Long-term care facilities worried about third COVID spike over winter months

Care providers worry how they'll keep residents safe if the numbers of infection keep rising.

ATLANTA — COVID-19 infection numbers are rising across the country and the people taking care of the most vulnerable population are concerned.

Long-term care facilities that already got hammered by the virus say they're bracing for a third wave as we head in to the cold winter months. 

They're watching positive cases very closely because the number of people infected in any community directly impacts the residents infected in long-term care facilities. 

"If COVID came in to one of our care homes, it would kill all of our residents. We cater to very high care need, high acuity residents. They can't get the flu, they sure can't get COVID. So we are just extra cautious," said Senior Care Expert Brian Levy. 

He has been worried about the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning. He manages a long-term care facility and says he's been watching how the virus get in to their homes. 

"Really it came from family members and care givers. It's our responsibility to monitor our staff, to adjust schedules. To make sure that the least amount of people are coming in and out of the homes," he said. 

RELATED: Federal health officials unveil plan to get coronavirus shots to nursing homes

That's backed up by a study recently released from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. The report reveals concerns about a possible third spike of the virus inside long-term care facilities. 

Tony Marshall, President and CEO of the Georgia Health Care Association said the state is actually in a better position than most right now. 

"We are very fortunate that in the state of Georgia right now, unlike the rest of the country, we are not seeing a significant increase in cases," Marshall said. "We've seen a significant decline since the peak in August. As of yesterday, in the month of October, we have only had 722 new cases in Georgia long-term care centers."

11Alive has been following the numbers closely. Data shows the number of positive cases in long-term care facilities trending down week after week. However,  Marshall said the current numbers can't predict what will happen this winter. 

"We are particularly concerned because everyone is getting tired. We have gone through an extended period of time where people have been isolated, people have not been able to meet, we've not been able to go out and eat. And we are afraid that people will become complacent and revert back to old habits," said Marshall. 

RELATED: Kemp renews Georgia coronavirus restrictions again, new guidance for long-term care facilities

 An executive order from Governor Brian Kemp now allows long-term care facilities to safely have visitors for their residents, but Levy said it's a constant balancing act. 

"It's very difficult to tell a family member they can't see mom. We are doing everything we can within the CDC guidelines, state regulations, county regulations, and our own judgement. The regulations on this change daily and weekly, and we just have to keep up with it," said Levy. 

The American Health Care  Association is pushing for the federal government to pass another relief package for long-term care homes. The money allocated by the CARES Act in March will run out at the end of the year.

The group also said long-term care facilities need more federal funding for additional staff, PPE, and testing for the virus to keep their residents safe. 

While there has been a lot of talk about a possible relief package, there has been no agreement, and the Senate Majority Leader just announced today that he told the White House not to work on a bill until after the election.


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