NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – A woman in her 60s with no prior health concerns died Tuesday after testing positive for COVID-19.
The woman lived at Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Norman. There was another person from the same nursing home who is still in the hospital after also testing positive for the virus.
The announcement comes weeks after visitation restrictions were placed on nursing homes. Tuesday, Gov. Kevin Stitt took action when he announced a “safer at home” order.
“It's safer at home for our elderly population until April 30th. So that's the direction all across the state,” Stitt said.
According to Stitt, it’s for Oklahoma’s vulnerable and elderly, listing categories for those who fit into that description.
"It's compromised immune system, it is an elderly population,” he said.
A spokesman for the representative of the nursing facility sent News 4 the following statement:
“I am reaching out on behalf of Care Providers Oklahoma, the trade association that represents skilled nursing facilities in Oklahoma. Unfortunately we have an update related to two recent residents testing positive for COVID-19 as well as one fatality (note: In the interest of transparency, Care Providers Oklahoma will continue to provide these updates as the organization is able to. It is important to understand that CPO is a trade association. It is not a government or regulatory body and most questions regarding COVID-19 treatment or containment will be referred to the Health Department or other appropriate authorities).”
Over the weekend, two residents of Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy Norman who were experiencing symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19 were transferred to Norman Regional Health System. Late yesterday, the facility was notified that both residents tested positive for the virus, and that one had passed away. The other resident remains at the hospital.
The facility has been working since that time to notify residents, family and staff, as well as to work with state, local and federal health officials to take steps to protect the wellbeing of its residents and contain the virus. No other residents or staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time.
The following is a statement released Tuesday by Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Norman:
“We wanted to let the community know as soon as possible that COVID-19 has hit our family. We have been notified that two residents sent to the hospital for treatment tested positive for the virus and are saddened to learn that one of the two has passed away. Our hearts and prayers go out to family members and to members of our own community also devastated by this news. We know this is an extremely difficult time for our families but want to assure them that we are working closely with local, state and federal health officials and continue to take heightened precautions to protect residents and team members. We are encouraging aggressive testing and following their guidance on next steps related to screening and the potential need for further isolation. We remain in communication with our families and encourage them to call with questions or concerns as this situation unfolds. Our goal remains the same as it has been since this crisis began; to avoid the spread of the virus and mitigate its effects on our population. We are especially grateful to our team members for their dedication to serve our residents with care and compassion during these challenging circumstances. Please keep these families, our team members, health care providers and state leadership in your thoughts and prayers as we all work together to deal with this pandemic.”
All Oklahoma nursing facilities are taking heightened precautions to protect their residents, in accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Oklahoma State Department of Health. These measures include restricting non-medically necessary visitation to the facility, ending communal dining and group activities in the facility, screening staff for fevers and symptoms of COVID-19 prior to every shift and screening all current residents twice per day for symptoms.
Oklahoma’s skilled nursing facilities will continue their policy of barring non-medically necessary visitation. Staff at many facilities are working on making teleconference technology like FaceTime available to residents wishing to visit with loved ones.
Care Providers Oklahoma President and CEO Steven Buck released the following statement issuing condolences and thanking skilled nursing home staff for their dedication and hard work:
“Our condolences go out to the friends and family of the Oklahoma resident who passed away, and all of those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. This is a sad and difficult time, but we are extremely blessed to have the support of so many dedicated, hardworking health care workers. The staff at our facilities are on the absolute front-lines of the battle against COVID-19. Not only are they trying to contain this virus, but they are doing so while helping their residents feel safe, comfortable and cared for. We owe them our gratitude for the dedication and compassion they are showing.
Care Providers Oklahoma continues to encourage state leaders and public health officials to press for expansion of COVID-19 testing capacity and collection of personal protective equipment.”
A Ponca City nursing home resident also tested positive just days ago. Gov. Stitt is now deciding to issue an executive order.
"To protect our elderly, we are suspending all visitation in long term care facilities effective immediately and until further notice,” he said.
Breea Clark, the mayor of Norman, took it a step further. She issued a “stay at home” order, effective for the next 21 days.
"It's a balancing act between protecting the safety of our people and the safety of our economy, but we always, always must err on the side of public safety and put the health of our residents first,” Clark said.
A list of essential businesses is on the City of Norman’s website. It includes restaurants like Pickleman’s on Campus Corner, but only for carry out or delivery. The restaurant’s assistant general manager said they are already feeling the effects.
"It's been pretty dead here on the strip. It's really dead,” Randy Loyd said
If you are caught breaking Norman’s stay at home order, you could face a penalty of $750 and 60 days in jail.