LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Don’t gather. Three tasks that have been repeated these past six months. Doctors say while pandemic fatigue is real and you may be tired of precautions, it’s important to stay vigilant. First News at Nine’s Hayley Spitler learned how long-term care facility outbreaks in La Crosse are leading to more deaths and how the community can help slow the spread.
Jacquie Cuts, La Crosse County Public Health Nursing Manager said, “Our long-term care facilities don’t exist in a vacuum. They all have staff members that are a part of our community and their residents are a part of our community.”
In the past 14 days, three people have died, and 29 new COVID cases have been reported in La Crosse County’s long-term care facilities. Jacquie Cutts with the La Crosse County Health Department says the outbreak in no way reflects the efforts facilities have taken.
“I also want to emphasize how responsive and responsible and ethical each of the facilities have been in how they’ve handled that,” said Cutts.
Health Systems Gundersen and Mayo and the Health Department have created a long-term care task force to help facilities prepare and respond to outbreak.
Dr. Elizabeth Cogbill, Gundersen Geriatric Physician said, “One of the reasons that COVID is so catchy in this type of facility is that often time the caregivers, the staff who work in the facility are performing really intimate cares for the residents including bowl programs and basic needs like changing them and hygiene. Everyone in these facilities all the staff are wearing their full PPE and unfortunately, it still is able to spread.”
While employees are doing their part, managing patients is more difficult.
“They don’t necessarily remember to stay in their room or cover their face,” said Cutts.
Geriatric physician dr. Elizabeth Cogbill reminds the community this matters and effects more than just those who live or work in long term care.
“In the scope of life, this isn’t that long of a time, it’s months to a year or a little bit more and could we all just hold on to that period of time and remember that our actions make a huge difference in the lives of others around us,” said Cogbill.
In La Crosse, Hayley Spitler, First News at Nine.