Minnesota nursing homes eager for more tests, more PPE

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities across Minnesota are being hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, long-term care residents so far make up more than half of the deaths statewide.

State health officials have been looking at ways to combat the spread of the virus, and they say that long-term care facilities should be a priority. However, many nursing homes and assisted living providers across the state say that they haven't seen that happen yet.

COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of 179 people in Minnesota, and more than half of those deaths stemmed from outbreaks at long-term care facilities.

“We are entering a phase of this virus here in Minnesota where we are seeing an increase in infection and now also more outbreaks and an increase in deaths,” .

The deadliest outbreak claimed the lives of at least 12 residents at St. Therese of New Hope. There are also eight confirmed coronavirus cases at Catholic Eldercare in northeast Minneapolis. Nursing homes in Wayzata and Winona have also been hit hard.

Jodi Boyne with Leading Age Minnesota, an association representing nursing homes and assisted living providers, says many facilities are still lacking the tools and resources they need.

“We at nursing homes and assisted living facilities immediately took aggressive measures to do our best to prevent it,” Boyne said. “We took all of these protective measures in order to prevent that spread, but even with the best effort that we could possibly do, we are hindered in our ability to stop it because we are missing two critical tools, and that’s testing and personal protective equipment.”

State health officials are now considering options to better protect the state's most vulnerable.

“We are embracing any solutions that come forward, [but] until we have that widespread testing and adequate personal protective equipment, we really are at a disadvantage in combatting COVID-19 in long-term care settings,” she said.

Officials suggest one way to better protect long-term care residents is to implement the use of a device that monitors oxygen levels.