The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs announced that 10 Claremore Veterans Center residents have passed away after testing positive for COVID-19.
Due to the scale of the outbreak, the aid of a state task force was requested. The state held a press conference Tuesday to describe the scope of the problem.
As of Tuesday, the center has had 34 residents test positive and be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms while 18 residents tested positive with moderate to severe symptoms, and 21 staff members have been isolated at home with positive results. Three residents have fully recovered.
Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) Executive Director Joel Kintsel said, “At the present time, seven residents who have mild to moderate symptoms are being cared for in-house at the Claremore Veteran’s Center. The third floor has been temporarily converted to serve essentially as a COVID-positive ward within the center.”
Kintsel said 43 Claremore Veterans Center residents are currently being treated at outside facilities, and will be permitted to return when it is deemed safe to do so based on at least one negative test.
“Based on our contact tracing, we believe that the most likely source of the virus was an asymptomatic employee who, at the time, did not know that they had the virus, and unknowingly passed it on to a resident,” Kintsel said. “Since the discovery of COVID at the Claremore center, we have continued to follow the strict guidelines of the CDC and the Oklahoma State Department of Health.”
Staff at the Claremore Veterans Center are receiving hazard pay effective immediately.
Visitation remains on complete lockdown, as it has been since March 14.
ODVA Director of Compliance Cami McKinney has been on-site daily, directly supervising infection control protocols and training.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health sent a longterm care assessment team to the facility last week, and no citations were issued.
The Norman Veterans Center has reported one positive resident being cared for in-house, and one positive resident in the hospital. Norman previously had four positive residents who have since recovered.
The Lawton and Talihina Veterans Centers each reported one positive case, and the residents have fully recovered.
The Ardmore, Clinton and Sulphur Veterans Centers have not recorded a single positive case.
“There have been no fatalities in any other center throughout Oklahoma,” Kintsel said.
Visitation across all seven veterans centers in the state has been locked down since March 14.
Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Military Ben Robinson said, “Since the onset of COVID-19, we have been diligently working to keep our veterans safe. These veterans are absolutely precious to us.”
“The record of our veterans center being COVID-free or reduced-COVID was very, very good up until recently,” Robinson said. “The safety of our veterans is our number one priority.”
Kintsel said the veterans centers have increased safety protocols and followed CDC and Okalahoma State Department of Health Guidelines since the beginning of the pandemic.