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Cornelius News

COVID-19 outbreak at Autumn Care under control

Becky Morton visits her mom, Louise Knox, 95, at Autumn Care.

By David Yochum. No one could have foreseen what was going to happen this spring at Autumn Care, the 102-bed nursing home on the Senior Campus at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, the historic congregation just south of downtown Cornelius.

Since March, a total of 20 elderly residents of Autumn Care died from COVID-19 in a place they assumed was a safe haven. Two of the deaths have occurred since mid-May.

It turns out nursing homes were the least safe places to be during a historic pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans.

When the crisis at Autumn Care started to unfold, Mayor Woody Washam called it “a community tragedy.”

It is a statewide and national tragedy as well.

As of June 23, there have been 646 COVID-19 related deaths in North Carolina nursing homes. The total death count for all North Carolina COVID cases was 1,271 on June 24, meaning that nursing homes accounted for 50.8 percent of all the COVID deaths.

Nationwide more than 40,000 nursing home residents and staff have died from COVID-19.

Autumn Care, built on the idea that senior citizens should be able age in place here, opened in 2015 with various local dignitaries cutting a ceremonial ribbon.

“The outbreak is absolutely under control,” Joshua Wood, the administrator at Autumn Care, said.

The first coronavirus case was reported on March 3 in North Carolina. By late April there were 10 COVID-19 deaths at Autumn Care, then 17, then 18 by early May. Based on Tuesday’s report from the NCDHHS, two more residents have passed away from COVID-19.

Employees said COVID-19 was not taken seriously enough when it first broke out. Before the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus was fully understood, staff moved from the sick wing patients to healthy patients. Things like laundry standards were lax.

Much happened that shouldn’t have happened, here and across the country.

But it’s not the worst outbreak in a nursing home in North Carolina.

According to NCDHHS, there have been 30 COVID-19 deaths at Aston Park Health Care Center in Buncombe County.

The Pines in Davidson has had two deaths due to COVID-19 in recent weeks.

Autumn Care is a private enterprise owned and operated by Cleveland-Ohio based Saber Health Care. It is not affiliated with Mt. Zion UMC, although in happier and healthier times Mt. Zion conducted Sunday worship services at Autumn Care. Saber recently paid $10 million in fines to resolve Medicare fraud allegations at other locations—not here at Autumn Care—rather than continue to litigate.

Mecklenburg County Public Health got involved in March, providing written guidance about isolating positive case and precautions for other residents; Personal Protective Equipment; and daily temperature and symptom monitoring of all staff and residents.

Mecklenburg Health had near daily contact with the facility to review current cases and status of residents and staff through mid-May.