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COVID-19 toll rises at Wayne County nursing homes

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

The toll of the coronavirus on nursing home patients in Wayne County is growing, with more than two dozen deaths reported at facilities in Livonia and Riverview.

Twenty-one residents of two Livonia nursing homes have died since March 16, Wayne County spokesman Bill Nowling said Friday. Fifteen of the dead were residents of the Regency nursing home in Livonia and six of them were from SKLD Livonia, he said.

No other details were available on the deaths at the Livonia facilities as of late Friday. Of the 272 COVID-19-connected deaths reported outside of Detroit in Wayne County, 94 were nursing home residents, said Nowling.

Seven residents at Rivergate Terrace in Riverview died after testing positive for the coronavirus, its executive director said.

Rivergate Terrace, on Fort and Pennsylvania streets, has had 36 people test positive for the novel coronavirus. Those infected include 21 residents and 15 workers, according to a statement from the facility.

Rivergate Health Care Center in Riverview, Mich., Friday, April 10, 2020.

"Three of the 21 residents who tested positive have returned to our facility and are under the isolated care of our facility associates," Executive Director Sujata Chaddha said in a statement. "We are following the guidance of our medical director and local hospitals and will continue to care for these residents in-house unless a resident’s condition progresses to a level of care that requires a transfer back to the hospital."

The facility received its first positive test on March 25 and immediately isolated residents, Chaddha said.

Seven residents who were taken to the hospital died there. Some residents and workers remain hospitalized.

The facility said 17 workers were tested for the virus. Two tests returned negative and the 15 workers who have the virus are recovering at home. Any other workers who arrive with a fever above 100 degrees are sent home, officials said.

The facility is part of Life Care Centers of America, which operates or manages more than 200 nursing, rehabilitation, Alzheimer's and senior living facilities in 28 states, according to its website. Officials did not immediately respond Friday for comment.

That is the same company that operates the Washington state nursing home that was the site of the first major outbreak in the U.S.  The outbreak at the Life Care Center of Kirkland has spread to at least 167 people, 37 of whom died, according to The Seattle Times

Rivergate Health Care Center  in Riverview, Mich., Friday, April 10, 2020.

Detroit leads Michigan in per capita coronavirus cases and deaths. The city had 6,228 confirmed cases as of Friday and 326 deaths. Statewide, deaths hit 1,281 Friday, with 22,780 cases.

Seniors with the coronavirus are overcrowding the hallways of DMC's Sinai Grace on the city's west side.

The growing number of dead at Sinai-Grace has caught the attention of the federal government. Detroit Medical Center officials had a conference call with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week because of concerns that Sinai-Grace had the highest COVID-19 mortality rates among hospitals in the nation, Dr. Vinay Pallekonda, a DMC chief medical officer, told staff on Wednesday.

► More: Inside Sinai-Grace ‘war zone’: ‘We started to run out of body bags’

Pallekonda attributed the high mortality rates at Sinai-Grace to about 14 nursing homes in the neighborhood and a number of patients with hypertension, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, who are at higher risk for severe coronavirus infections.

Pallekonda declined Thursday to discuss the mortality rates with The News.

Similarly in Maryland, clusters of cases at 90 nursing homes were the state's top concern, its governor said this week. A nursing home in Mount Airy had 14 deaths from the virus and shortly afterward, the state formed special strike teams with members from the National Guard.

Gov. Larry Hogan tours the Baltimore Convention Center, which has been turned into a field hospital amid a surge of coronavirus cases in the state, Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

The teams will bring triage, emergency care, supplies and equipment to overburdened nursing homes, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended restrictions on entry into care facilities and juvenile justice facilities through May 3. The order issued Sunday requires facilities to prohibit in-person visitation and facilitate remote visitations between its residents and their loved ones, using phone or video conferencing.

“We must continue to do everything we can to protect Michiganders,” Whitmer said at the time. “This is a hard time for families, and we will continue to put their health and safety first when making these decisions. I encourage everyone in Michigan to remain flexible and do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Riverview Mayor Andrew Swift issued a statement Thursday saying the city is saddened by the loss of several residents.

"This health crisis has become very personal for us. Other residents and staff of the facility reportedly have tested positive for COVID-19, so I hope everyone will send prayers and good wishes for their quick recovery and well-being," Swift said.

"On behalf of the City Council and city staff, we wish comfort and peace to all of the affected individuals and families. This is why I urge everyone to take Gov. Whitmer’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ plan very seriously."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

Staff writer Oralandar Brand-Williams and the Associated Press contributed.