COVID-19 has breached Green Pine Acres, Menahga’s city-owned nursing home.

Greenwood Connections Administrator Laura Ahlf updated the Menahga City Council at their Tuesday meeting.

The first resident to test positive occurred at the end of September. As of Tuesday – about two weeks after the first case – Ahlf said 19 residents and 20-plus staff are now infected.

“It’s something that we’ve been planning for diligently over the past seven months – what we would do in case of an outbreak. It’s something we hoped we would not see, but we reacted as quickly as we could and executed our plan in hopes to minimize the spread,” Ahlf said. “It’s a very hard virus to contain, and many staff and residents have contracted the virus.”

Ahlf said the safety of staff and residents is the facility’s highest priority.

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Greenwood Connections is working with a Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) case manager, she added. Ahlf is also in conversation with the state’s emergency operation center in the event that more nursing staff tests positive and there is a need for emergency staffing.

The MDH conducted an infection survey this week, the fourth survey since April. “Each time, they found no concerns and we are in compliance,” Ahlf said.

MDH officials told Ahlf that Greenwood Connections reacted quickly to this first outbreak, calling it “a very wily virus.”

According to MDH, in an area where there is community spread, the virus tends to enter the facility through an asymptomatic employee “and then it goes from there,” Ahlf reported.

She noted that attempts to trace the origin of this infection were unsuccessful. The source remains unknown.

“It can be pretty frustrating. It’s hard and it’s stressful,” she continued, praising staff for working hard even when anxiety levels are high.

Council member Tim Ellingson inquired if anyone was “actually sick from the virus.”

“Oh, yeah. All levels of sickness, really,” Ahlf replied. “They’ve definitely had symptoms of the virus.”

Claims that COVID-19 doesn’t spread are false, she said. “It spreads.” Ahlf reiterated that MDH found that Greenwood Connections did not do anything wrong. “They are like, ‘This is what we see. When it gets in the facility, it spreads.’ It’s really hard to contain, even though you’re doing everything.”

Staff wear N95 masks, goggles, gloves and gowns. “We are sanitizing like you wouldn’t believe,” Ahlf said. Once the first case was identified, isolation began immediately. “Within a week, we had more (cases). We stopped movement. We stopped cross-contamination. We stopped washing. We went to paper plates. We did everything we could.”

The MDH said the facility’s COVID-19 response plan was excellent, Ahlf said, and there was nothing more they could do.

“People don’t realize it, what you do in the community – wearing a mask, protecting the people – it protects our facility,” she said.

The first resident to test positive is improving, she noted, and is out of isolation.

“We’ll get through this. We pray that everybody comes out of this and no ill effects. We’re doing our best. We really are,” Ahlf concluded.

In related business, Ahlf reported that health insurance premiums through the Minnesota Public Employees Insurance Program will be increasing 9.7 percent in 2021. This is $46.76 per employee.