VA home retesting residents for COVID-19; Mental health hospital sees cases increase

VA home retesting residents for COVID-19; Mental health hospital sees cases increase
National Guard cleaning Bill Nichols Veterans Home in Alex City (Source: Alabama Daily News)

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

The Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City began this week testing for a second time all residents for COVID-19. Those results are still pending, but a total of 91 cases have been confirmed at the Alexander City facility since April 8.

“We are doing everything possible to mitigate the virus in the state veterans homes,” Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Bob Horton told Alabama Daily News on Tuesday. “We’re working closely with the Alabama Department of Public Health to begin universal testing for residents and employees at the state’s four veterans homes. The universal testing will help us identify potential asymptomatic cases, which is critical to preventing and reducing the transmission of the virus among employees and residents.”

There have been 23 deaths at the home attributed to COVID-19. That number hasn’t increased in the past week.

Horton said a total of 41 employees at Bill Nichols tested positive since April and 12 have returned to work.

In April, there were 131 residents and about 200 employees at the facility.

No residents at the state veterans homes in Bay Minette, Pell City and Huntsville have tested positive. Three employees at the William F. Green Home in Bay Minette home tested positive in April.

Cases increase at Tuscaloosa hospital

Eighteen cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at the Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatry Center in Tuscaloosa. That’s up from five reported last week.

No cases have been reported at the other two Alabama Department of Mental Health hospitals in Tuscaloosa, a department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Mary Starke Harper has capacity for 96 patients and last week the department's medical director said that measures were being taken to limit patients’ interactions with one another.

Visits and new admissions at all three hospitals were stopped in March.