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Eight Detroit nursing homes have at least 10 COVID-19 deaths

Detroit — Eight Detroit nursing homes have had 10 or more deaths tied to COVID-19, according to new data released by the city on Monday. 

Facilities with the most resident deaths include two west-side facilities: Fairlane Senior Care and Rehab Center and Sheffield Manor Nursing and Rehab Center with 16 each.

All but two of the city's 26 nursing homes have had COVID-19 deaths as of Sunday, according to city health department data. Of Detroit's 947 deaths, 187 or about 20% were nursing home residents, the city reported.

Sheffield Manor Nursing and Rehab Center has had 16 COVID-19-related deaths.

The information was released the same day Mayor Mike Duggan announced that quick-result testing of the city's 2,030 nursing home residents across all 26 facilities has been completed.

“The nursing homes now have the information they need to safely isolate those who are infectious," Duggan said at the Monday press conference. 

A representative for Fairlane, Holli Titus, said the city testing has helped them identify all residents with the virus by April 13, not just those exhibiting symptoms, so they can quarantine those patients to single rooms. Prior to that Titus said they were only able to test patients with symptoms of the virus. 

She said Fairlane has a high number of deaths because they are a larger facility, at 215 beds, and take care of sicker patients. 

"We take people who are very sick that others won’t take," said Titus, who is a media manager for Brighton-based NexCare Health Systems, the company that manages Fairlane. "We are in this boat with everyone else in the nation. We are fighting it the best we can."

State Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, said the city's high loss of life in nursing homes is a wake-up call that more needs to be done to protect the "most vulnerable of the vulnerable."

That includes making sure nursing home staff don't lack personal protection gear, as well as advocating they get higher wages and affordable health care, he said. 

Titus said Fairlane has enough personal protection gear for employees but has had to buy internationally at high prices. 

The Associated Press reported Thursday that there have been more than 11,000 COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes nationwide as facilities struggle to get enough tests to control their outbreaks.

Calls to Detroit's Sheffield Manor Nursing and Rehab and its operator, Ciena Health Care in Southfield, were not immediately returned Monday afternoon. 

But last week, Ciena CEO Mohammed Qazi, which operates seven nursing homes in Detroit, joined Duggan at a city press conference and said the reason for double-digit deaths at some facilities can be "difficult to pinpoint."

There is no more communal dining and "less and less interaction," Qazi said, to "keep our residents healthy and also our staff healthy."

"We're painfully aware of the fact that it has been a huge crisis in the community," he said last week. "Being in the nursing home, we are dealing with the population most vulnerable. It's the elderly and they have the underlying conditions. The challenges have been pretty evident."

Boulevard Temple Care Center, also operated by Ciena, had 15 deaths, according to city data. 

The city reported that Sheffield had 35 residents test positive for the virus and Fairlane had 72. 

Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said Detroit also is now requiring all nursing home staff to be tested by May 11, even if they had a previous negative test. 

“I suspect that our interventions will help to slow the spread of COVID-19 as again, these nursing home residents are in congregate settings," she said. "So it's really important for the staff to be tested.”

Last week, the state of Michigan began releasing the number of positives cases at all state facilities, which showed on Friday that Metro Detroit accounting for 72% of all cases. The state has yet to release the number of deaths at each facility.

The state noted in its data release that "the presence of COVID-19 at a facility is no way an indicator of a facility that isn’t following proper procedures." There are nursing homes that are helping local hospitals by accepting confirmed COVID-19 positive residents, according to the state.

Carter said he and other local lawmakers are working to outfit nursing homes with more equipment once the state eventually lifts restrictions on visiting nursing home residents, including hand sanitizer and face shields. 

"Families are going to want to get in there and see them," Carter said.