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15 seniors now diagnosed with coronavirus at Johnson County nursing home

13 Investigates has confirmed that seven more residents of the Otterbein Senior Life nursing home in Franklin have tested positive for COVID-19.
Otterbein Senior Life in Franklin. (WTHR)

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. (WTHR) – 13 Investigates has confirmed that seven more residents of the Otterbein Senior Life nursing home in Franklin have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of infected residents to 15.

A nurse and contracted therapist who work at the nursing home also have confirmed cases of coronavirus.

“Currently of the 15 total [resident] positives, one went home, six are now isolated in our special unit established yesterday and today with help from Johnson County [...] and eight remain in the hospital. We expect two of those back tomorrow,” Otterbein spokesman Gary Horning told 13 Investigates Saturday night in a text message.

An additional 12 residents showing coronavirus symptoms tested negative, he said, adding that three more residents began exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms today.

Two of them have received COVID-19 tests and their results are expected back Monday. The other is still awaiting testing.

The nursing home says it has received additional personal protection equipment (PPE) for its staff and has requested coronavirus testing for its nurses.

“Hope to test all in the coming days via the Eli Lilly program,” Horning explained.

The nursing home came under criticism from local and state officials after sending eight residents to local hospitals Wednesday night, immediately after learning the seniors tested positive for COVID-19.

Indiana’s state health commissioner said some of the Otterbein residents were showing only minor symptoms and should have been cared for at the nursing home, rather than sending them to emergency rooms.

The nursing home said at least one of the patients required a ventilator after being hospitalized, but Horning admitted Otterbein Senior Life was not prepared to handle an outbreak of coronavirus when it first discovered the news on Wednesday.

"Otterbein has always been of the opinion there will come a time when we will need to take back residents,” he told 13 Investigates Friday afternoon. “Our issue was that as we were putting these protocols together -- as we are defining where an isolation unit will be, where we are cleansing, disinfecting, identifying protocols and caregivers -- we were not prepared 3 days ago, 2 days ago, to be in that position. We are very quickly getting in that position because we know it's inevitable."

The nursing home now has implemented a coronavirus action plan that includes:

  • Setting up a special isolation unit for residents who have confirmed cases of COVID-19 or who are showing early symptoms of the virus.
  • Those sick residents will remain in the isolation unit for at least 14 days until it is determined they do not pose a risk to other residents and staff.
  • The unit will have dedicated nurses who will care only for patients in the COVID-19 ward and not with other residents in facility. Those staff will receive additional personal protective equipment.
  • The coronavirus isolation unit will receive additional scrubbing and sanitation.

Indiana health commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said the situation at Otterbein serves as an important lesson to other Indiana nursing homes about the importance of having a detailed plan to deal with COVID-19.

“It’s already, I think, made it very real for all of our other long-term care facilities and our hospital systems,” Box said Friday at the Indiana Statehouse, adding that the state health department is now double-checking the coronavirus action plans for all 535 nursing homes across Indiana.