Nursing homes — in the state and nationally — have been hot spots for outbreaks of COVID-19, and their residents face increased risk of illness and death. This has been heightened by the statistic that 40% of COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin were those living in nursing homes.

On May 4, Governor Tony Evers announced statewide testing goals to include voluntary testing of all of the state’s 373 nursing home residents and staff members.

Divine Rehabilitation and Nursing in Lodi had already been early adopters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Wisconsin Department of Health’s recommendations to limit visitors to the nursing home, socially distance residents, have employees wear masks and check for temperatures at the start and end of each shift, along with diligent disinfection regimens. They were also quick to respond to the Governors request with Divine Nursing Home testing all residents and staff. All tests came back negative from the May 4 testing.

“The Coronavirus pandemic is a tragedy for sure,” Divine Medical Director Dr. Rian Podein said. “But it is wonderful to see examples of high quality and well coordinated public health teamwork as we are seeing with local public health, business, and our local nursing home. The Columbia County Health department, Exact Science, and Divine nursing home home have been a trifecta working together to protect our most vulnerable community members.”

Podein said that seeing all the negative tests was reassuring for that moment in time and was also reassuring that all efforts have been effective thus far.

These proactive testing efforts allow reassurance to residents and their families that the facilities are doing everything we can to prevent COVID-19 entry into nursing homes, and if found that we are able to address outbreaks early on while they are easier to isolate and manage.

Coordination of this testing was facilitated by the local Columbia County Health Officer with nursing homes able to receive free tests, produced by the Madison based company Exact Science, from the Wisconsin Department of Health.

Along with the testing, Divine has been diligent in its cleaning and sanitizing efforts.

“Appropriate CDC approved cleaners are being used daily to clean high-touch surfaces.” Divine Administrator Katherine Casey said. “Additionally, deep cleaning of rooms is also being conducted by staff as well as our regular, stringent cleaning processes. Staff from every department have truly made Divine their home during this time and have added some extra care to all residents.”

Podein said that May 4 was the first round of testing, but is unsure when the next round may be.

“We are awaiting recommendations or guidance from Governor Evers and the State Department of Health,” Podein said. “This will likely be a recurring event though, but how frequently is unknown at the present. It may depend on the timing of all state nursing homes to complete the task first in order to then decide when to repeat.”

Divine is following all guidelines put forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services when it comes to visitors within the building.

“That means, that only under extreme, compassionate settings — the active dying of a loved one — will families be able to visit the facility,” Casey said.

Casey would like to thank all the families and community members for their support of Divine and its residents during this challenging time for everybody.

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