More than 70% of nursing home COVID-19 cases in Metro Detroit

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Michigan’s nursing homes have reported nearly 2,200 COVID-19 cases, according to state data released Friday, with Metro Detroit accounting for 72% of all cases.

People inside the Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center wear PPE as they watch a protest in front of the Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on E. Jefferson in Detroit on Thursday, April 9, 2020.

The information shows Wayne County is leading in the number of positive cases with 785. Oakland County facilities followed with 455 cases and Macomb County had 345 cases. The state didn't list any death data.

The report marked the first time the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has provided specific novel coronavirus data on nursing homes, which provided an early national flashpoint in the virus outbreak when a nursing home accounted for three-quarters of Washington State's 12 COVID-19 deaths in early March.

In Michigan, the four facilities with the most cases are located in Wayne County: Imperial Healthcare Centre in Dearborn Heights had 76 cases, Ambassador Nursing and Rehab Center in Detroit with 70 cases and Regency in Taylor with 65 cases. Westland Convalescent & Rehab Center was fourth with 60 cases.

All four are Villa Healthcare centers, according to their websites. Skokie, Illinois-based.

In a statement sent late Friday to The Detroit News Villa said: "In March, Villa prepared to care for residents who were COVID-19 positive, and today, we meet this challenge daily. To date, Villa centers have successfully graduated COVID-19 positive residents from the quarantine unit and back to their own rooms.  However, since we know that individuals can be positive and asymptomatic, we welcome and are thankful for the assistance of the City of Detroit in securing testing resources for the benefit of our residents."

In a post on its website, Villa said it has consulting services agreements with its 34 facilities in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin, but does not own, operate or manage any centers. 

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.

The state data reflects current cases of COVID-19 among facility residents reported to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as of Thursday. The totals do not include patients or staff who have recovered or died prior to the report.

"We are working very closely with our local health departments to work with these nursing facilities and we have committed $3.8 million to support response efforts," Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun said during a Friday press conference. "This includes teams of public health experts and clinicians to provide assistance to these nursing homes and to really work on expanding testing."

Michigan isn't alone in its battle to protect the vulnerable population of nursing home patients. The Associated Press reported Friday that there have been more than 11,000 COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes nationwide as these facilities struggle with trying to get enough tests to control their outbreaks.

But Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said during a Friday press conference that he felt the nursing home issue in the city had been well addressed and he is turning his attention to a new concern: grocery stores. 

"I think our senior citizens who are in the nursing home today are a lot safer today than they were two weeks ago because of the work" by the city's health department, Duggan said. 

In 10 days, the city of Detroit tested about 1,900 nursing home residents in the city. In total, there were 478 confirmed COVID-19 cases with an about 25% infection rate and 150 deaths. 

In addition to testing, the city has distributed 12,000 N95 masks, 10,000 gloves, 150 gowns and 300 face shields to these facilities to help them through the crisis, Detroit Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said at a Friday press conference.

"The team at the Detroit Health Department has worked toward diminishing COVID-19 in these facilities because we know this is where the virus can thrive," Fair said. "They are in congregant settings. We decided to put seniors first."

Wayne County, where Detroit is located, has accounted for the most coronavirus cases and deaths across the state. On Friday, the county had 15,407 cases, accounting for 42% of Michigan's caseload. The county's 1,443 deaths comprised 47% of the state's coronavirus death toll.

Villa's press release noted the prevalence of COVID-19 in Wayne County in defending the centers connected to the company. Among 14 Villa-connected sites in Michigan, two northern Michigan facilities reported zero cases. One did not file a report.

"On March 14, 2020, the world as we know it changed with the increase of the presence of COVID-19 in the United States," the company wrote in the release. "With the support and consultation of Villa leadership, each center implemented additional measures with the sole intent to protect the residents and staff to the greatest extent possible from the impact of the Novel Coronavirus."

On April 9,  a caravan of cars honked in protest outside the Ambassador nursing home in Detroit to raise awareness about the deaths of three people who lived or worked there from COVID-19.

Twitter: @bykaleahall