Tsali Care staff taking precautions to safeguard residents 

by May 19, 2020Front Page, Health, NEWS ka-no-he-da





Tsali Care Center is currently testing residents and staff for the coronavirus (COVID-19) in efforts to stay ahead of the game in the fight against the virus.  Center officials noted that 20 residents were tested on Monday, May 18 and the remainder of the residents and staff will be tested on Thursday, May 21.  

Nannie Calhoun, left, a resident of Tsali Care Center, is tested for COVID-19 by Joni Moss, RN. This week, the Center is testing all of its residents and staff. (Cherokee Indian Hospital photo)

Some residents and staff have been tested previously.  “Tsali Care Center currently has no cases of COVID-19 in staff or residents,” said Dr. Blythe Winchester, MD, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokeee Indians who serves as the certified medical director of the Center.  “The White House made the recommendation on Monday, May 11 for staff and residents in nursing homes to be tested.  We started testing employees three weeks ago thanks to coordination with the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority (CIHA) testing team.”  

Dr. Winchester said the testing is important for several reasons.  “Our priorities are in alignment with CDC recommendations and include: 

* Keep unrecognized COVID-19 from entering the facility

* Identify infections early and take actions to prevent spread

* Assess current supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and initiate measures to optimize supply 

* Quickly recognize and manage severe illness.” 

Tsali Care Center already has many precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in-house.  Some of the precautions the staff are taking include: temperature checks upon entry, symptom assessments upon entry, requiring face coverings to be worn at all times (N95 grade for direct resident care), participation in a drill for COVID-19 preparedness, staff only works at Tsali Care Center and not any other facilities, and housekeeping practices have been adjusted.  Precautions being taken by residents include: visitors are not allowed; outings, group activities, and group dining has been suspended; given cloth masks and encouraged to wear at all times; symptom checks and vital signs are taken by staff daily; all new or re-admitted patients are quarantined on an observation hall for 14 days; all new or re-admitted patients must have negative COVID-19 test; and all appointments outside of the facility are evaluated for their necessity. 

“We appreciate the steps that have had to be taken and the difficulty this poses for our residents, families, and staff,” said Dr. Winchester.  “We thank those in the community who have provided phone support, donated gifts, and offered other services to assist everyone during this time.”  

There is a protocol in place if a patient is found to test positive for COVID-19.  “If we identify a positive resident case, our incident command will be initiated and we will work with CIHA to address mitigation quickly.  All families will be notified that we have a positive case in the building.  Contact tracing will begin immediately to determine exposed staff/residents.”

She added, “Residents who have been exposed will be moved to the designated hall to be tested and have increased monitoring of oxygen levels and temperature.  Exposed staff will be tested and sent home to self-isolate.  Residents have had advanced care plans updated to assist in decision-making for those who may become unstable and/or need a different level of care.”  

According to the CDC, as of May 18, over 1.4 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 with a total of 89,407 deaths.