Heritage Place sees its first COVID-19 cases

Nov 9, 2020

Heritage Place is operated by Central Peninsula Hospital, owned by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and can hold up to 60 residents.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

Three residents and one staff member at Heritage Place Skilled Nursing facility in Soldotna tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The hospital began testing residents every three days late last month when three staff members tested positive for the virus, between Oct. 26 and 30.

This is the first outbreak the facility has seen since those initial positive results. The residents who received positive results were tested Friday and got their results Sunday, said Bruce Richards, the hospital’s director of external affairs.

Heritage Place is operated by Central Peninsula Hospital, owned by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and can hold up to 60 residents. Currently it’s nearly full.

The virus has already impacted elder care facilities in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Nationwide, deaths at nursing homes account for approximately 38 percent of COVID-19-related deaths and 6 percent of cases.

Although all other residents have tested negative, Richards said the hospital is not ruling out the possibility that more test positive down the line.

“If you look at historical infections and other skilled nursing facilities, the first outbreak is usually followed up by more positive tests. I'm not saying that’s going to happen," he said. "But if you review the history that went on up in Fairbanks and the state’s pioneer homes, I believe that’s what occurred. So you usually had your first batch of positive tests, and then about a week later or so, if there’s going to be any, that’s when it’s going to be.” 

One of the residents is symptomatic while the other two were not experiencing symptoms as of Monday morning.

The facility has had precautionary measures in place since March but started opening up to limited in-person visitation when the worst of the first wave passed in Alaska. In October, it closed to in-person visitation again. Residents and staff were getting tested every other week.

Now that there are active cases within Heritage, the facility has suspended all resident gatherings and closed common areas, like the dining room.

Residents who tested positive have been isolated in private rooms. Three residents who had close contact with a positive resident have also been placed in private rooms.

The staff member who received a positive test result is isolating at home.

The Heritage staff who tested positive are among the over 40 staff from the facility, CPH and its clinics who are currently unable to come to work, Richards said.

“There’s several people who are in isolation because of being positive. There’s also people that are quarantined for various reasons, whether it’s an exposure to a family member or somebody outside," he said. "You just can’t find healthcare workers and call somebody in. They’re not around. And so we’re managing right now, but it’s challenging.”

He said healthcare workers are in high demand across the country, which makes it hard for the hospital to bring in additional help from elsewhere.

Richards said all 49 hospital beds are in use but that’s not due to a higher number of positive COVID-19 cases at hospital. There are currently three positive cases at the hospital, Richards said, though there have been as many as eight at one time.

He said capacity ebbs and flows and that capacity can change quickly as patients are admitted and discharged. 

Over 1,100 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Alaska this weekend. The Kenai Peninsula Borough reported 107 new cases, bringing its current total of active cases to 742.

Of those cases, 259 are in Soldotna, where Heritage Place is located.