‘On top of it early:’ No COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facility that made costly addition

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MILWAUKEE — One-third of all deaths related to the coronavirus in Wisconsin are in long-term care facilities.

At Edenbrook Lakeside on Milwaukee’s east side, there have been none, and they say it may be because of one big, costly addition.

Dewanna Taylor

Friday night means it’s back to work for longtime health care worker Dewanna Taylor. At Edenbrook Lakeside, she is caring for some of the most vulnerable — having already recovered from COVID-19 herself.

“I tried to distance myself as much as I can from the residents, but still give them the care they deserve,” Taylor, a licensed practical nurse at Edenbrook, said.

In mid-March, the long-term care facility discovered two “patient zeroes” inside — a staff member and a patient who tested positive for the virus.

“At that point, we decided that it would be important to test all of our staff and all of our residents so that we could have a better understanding of what we were dealing with,” said Steven St. Louis, an administrator at Edenbrook Lakeside.

Those tests revealed 11 out of 114 staff members were positive. Nine out of 86 residents were as well. Testing staff alone cost $10,000, but St. Louis believes it helped stop the spread early on.

“All of which were asymptomatic, so had we not done the testing, we wouldn’t have even known,” St. Louis said. “People who got on top of it early and took it serious very early, are the ones that are seeing success.”

Two residents at the facility remain positive and are staying in an isolated unit. The facility is also testing any new employee and restricted essential vendors who visit the lobby.

Steven St. Louis

Since the testing, Edenbrook Lakeside has sent two letters; the first was on March 25 to residents and their families, the second on April 29.

“I think it’s important for people to know, because the unknown is what creates all the fear,” said St. Louis.

You won’t find fear in Taylor, who knew she had a job to do.

“They took care of us, and now it’s our turn to take care of them,” Taylor said. “It can be emotionally, physically challenging. That’s why us as healthcare workers have to take care of ourselves so we can be there for the resident as well.”

Workers in long-term care often travel between facilities. That isn’t the case at Edenbrook Lakeside; they restricted workers to the facility, so they’re not traveling among others. They believe that made a big difference as well, but also acknowledge this is not over.


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