Public concern boiled over Thursday with the news of a COVID-19 outbreak at Brandermill Woods, a retirement community in Chesterfield County that reported five residents of its memory care unit and four employees had tested positive for the virus.
The family of one Brandermill
Woods resident voiced alarm about Virginia policies for testing the residents and employees of long-term care facilities.
“Long-term care communities are doing the best they can with the resources they have,” said Julie Lewis, a Chesterfield native and New York resident whose father lives in the Brandermill Woods assisted living in the same building as the memory care unit. “When will somebody stand up and help them?”
In Richmond and Henrico, public health officials have been more aggressive in “point-prevalence” testing of all residents in affected facilities since a COVID-19 outbreak killed 49 residents of Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in western Henrico County. Testing of all residents and staff at Canterbury in late March found that more than half of the 92 residents who tested positive then for the disease had not shown any of its symptoms.
The Virginia National Guard will assist Henrico health officials in testing residents and staff in portions of Cedarfield Health Care Center, where three residents have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as two in the retirement community’s independent living apartments.
The Chesterfield Health District — with 20 deaths in Chesterfield and five in Colonial Heights — says it plans to work with the National Guard in wide testing in some local longterm care facilities, but the health director said the department’s general policy is to limit testing to people who show symptoms of the disease.
“Facilities themselves have the opportunity to do as much testing as they want to do through private laboratories,” Dr. Alexander Samuel said in a news media briefing on Thursday.
However, Brandermill Woods currently relies on the local health department for testing, based on COVID-19 symptoms, Executive Director Charmaine Preiss said in an interview on Thursday. “If someone presents with the symptoms, they will be tested.”
The facility — which includes assisted living and health care units in one building and independent living apartments in another — has ordered testing and other scarce supplies to deal with the outbreak. However, Preiss said, “At this point ... our access to testing is limited.”