Giacomo Bologna, Mississippi Clarion Ledger March 25 2020
The state of Mississippi is taking preventative measures to protect hundreds of veterans in state-run nursing homes from the new coronavirus.
Employees are undergoing regular temperature checks and all in-person visitation was suspended more than a week ago, according to Stacey Pickering, executive director of the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board.
The Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board, or Mississippi VA, operates nursing homes specifically for veterans in four cities — Jackson, Kosciusko, Collins and Oxford — comprising 600 beds.
There are now more than 300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Mississippi, and that number has rapidly increased as testing ramps up. Those most susceptible to the virus are older people or people who have respiratory problems or compromised immune systems, and the virus has wreaked havoc in nursing homes across the country.
Coronavirus has been linked to 35 deaths in a single nursing home in Washington state, according to the Seattle Times.
Three residents of the Mississippi VA who showed symptoms of the coronavirus have been tested, Pickering said Tuesday, and all three results came back negative.
The Mississippi VA, which is a separate entity from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, has been studying how nursing homes across the country and adopting best practices, he said.
According to Pickering, that includes:
- doing “as much telemedicine as possible” with the federal VA hospitals in Jackson and Memphis;
- in lieu of in-person visits, employees are using iPads to connect residents with family and friends
- taking the temperature of all employees when they show up for work, having them answer health questionnaires and logging that information.
- severely restricting the number of employees who go between facilities;
- disinfecting more surfaces, such as doorknobs and dining facilities;
- anytime a resident returns from the hospital, they go into an isolation room with negative pressure.
“One of our gentlemen told me he was scared,” Pickering said. “… We understand that. We’re trying to keep them as much in their routine with activities.”
Pickering said the nursing homes have a “good base” of personal protective equipment, and each facility has six isolation rooms.
Employees at nursing homes operated by the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board are undergoing regular health screenings and temperature checks to protect residents during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Mississippi Veterans Affairs)
“I don’t think anybody can say, ‘Absolutely, it won’t get into one of our homes,'” Pickering said, adding that the Mississippi VA nursing homes are doing everything they can to prepare. “Do I think it’s inevitable? Not at all.”
If any veterans in Mississippi need help during the coronavirus pandemic, Pickering urged them to call the Mississippi VA office, 601-576-4850, or visit its website, www.msva.ms.gov.