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Patient who died of Covid-19 was Carolina Village resident

The patient who died of Covid-19 at Pardee UNC Health hospital on Thursday night was a resident of Carolina Village who had been admitted previously, discharged to the life care center's medical wing, then readmitted to Pardee, Carolina Village administrator Kevin Parries told residents in a website message.

"It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness that I report that Carolina Village has been directly touched by COVID-19," Parries, the executive director, said in a message posted on the Village Hub page Friday morning.

A resident of an independent living unit, the patient initially had been hospitalized at Pardee on March 21 for treatment of pneumonia.

"While in the hospital, according to the acting physician, the resident was just a few doors down from a COVID-19 positive patient and received care from the same nurse," Parries said. The patient was discharged from the hospital and admitted to the Carolina Village Medical Center, "onto a hall specifically designated for the isolation of any new admission, all of whom are monitored for COVID-19 symptoms for the first 14 days," Parries said.

At the time, the life care center's medical director and other physicians "felt that the resident’s condition was specific to the pneumonia diagnosis." On Wednesday, when the patient's condition worsened, medical staff sent the resident back to Pardee, where a Covid-19 test was conducted. Carolina Village administrators received word on Thursday afternoon that the patient had tested positive and later that the patient had died. "The spouse was permitted to see the patient due to a continued decline in condition," Parries said.

Later Saturday, responding the Lightning's questions, Parries said the facility is free of Covid-19 as of today.

"Carolina Village does not have any cases of COVID-19 on our campus, and our number one goal at this time is to keep it that way," he said in an email. "As soon as we became aware of the diagnosis, we immediately started working with the Department of Public Health. We have every reason to believe that other residents were not exposed at any time.

"The Department of Public Health and Carolina Village collaboratively decided to thoroughly screen all Village employees who came into contact with the affected resident," he continued. "This includes testing employees who are considered at high risk of exposure and quarantining them until we receive the results. All of the testing is being done in accordance to the CDC guidelines and through the Department of Public Health. ... I can assure you we are doing everything we can to we keep our residents AND staff safe."

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends during this difficult time," Parries said in the Village Hub message to residents. "To ensure the safety of all our residents and staff, the spouse and family have been provided a space off campus to be in quarantine for the next 14 days, with the understanding that they cannot come back onto campus until this quarantine period has ended with them showing no signs of COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis with them."

Pardee had no comment on the situation, spokeswoman Erica Allison said Saturday.

The Henderson County Health Department on Friday confirmed the death of an elderly patient the night before in what was the first COVID-19-associated death in Henderson County.

By all accounts Carolina Village has been proactive in preventing the coronavirus from reaching the campus. Residents are not allowed to leave at all, nor are visitors allowed in except for employees and the facility has enforced other measures to prevent person-to-person contact. With the dining hall closed, workers deliver meals to apartment dwellers. Residents in the cottages and other units on campus pick up meals once a day at a drive-thru site. Parries announced Friday that all staff in the health care facilities would be wearing protective masks. "If you don't live with them, you should not be with them," Parries reminds residents in regular video updates on the Village Hub page.

"No one is supposed to come in except employees and a few contractors that have to get on campus to do critical work," said John McHugh, who moved with his wife into a cottage on the campus last October. "I think they've done as good a job as they can. I think they got blindsided on this one. This is exactly what they're trying to prevent. The only thing I would want to do beyond what they've done is the need to be tested before they come back in. That would depend on having enough testing kits."

It's not clear whether Carolina Village has a supply of Covid-19 testing kits or how many test kits Pardee and the Henderson County Public Health Department have. When the county and Pardee shut down a coronavirus screening site at Blue Ridge Community College, officials said medical providers needed to conserve the Covid-19 test kits for symptomatic patients and front-line health care workers.

Although he expressed confidence in the measures Carolina Village has put in place, McHugh said the patient's return to the life care facility's medical center raised questions.

"Why wasn’t our resident tested before being returned to the village?" he said in an email. "Are Pardee employees exposed to C-19 being tested regularly? Why are C-19 and regular patients sharing the same area of the hospital and the same staff?"

In his message to Carolina Village residents, Parries said administrators would review the already stringent protections to see what more could be done.

"I want to ensure you that we do not have reason to believe that anyone in the Independent Living area has been exposed as a result of this situation," he said. "We are continuing with protocols already in place with our contingency plan, and we will be reviewing them to see if we can do anything more stringently."